Whether you love it or hate it, Defensive Stance is a go-to talent for Arms Warriors in PvP. Whilst active, it reduces all damage taken and dealt by 20% and is on a six second activation cooldown. Whatever the PvP setting, Defensive Stance is used more widely than Second Wind and Bounding Stride, the other choices on its talent tier. But what makes Defensive Stance so obligatory and when is it best deployed? Read on my fellow Azerothian and let’s find out.
A Short History
Once upon a time, warriors of all shapes and sizes had access to a class mechanic know as stances. If, like me, you’ve been playing the game long enough, you’ll remember the classic triad of Battle, Berserker and Defensive stance. Each stance shifted the warrior’s base power in ways that suited certain situations. Although various tuning changes were made over the years, the three stances operated in roughly the same way throughout their tenure in-game.
Battle Stance was the all-purpose option, providing a balanced combat poise that didn’t alter a warrior’s power in any significant fashion. Defensive Stance was the tanking choice, increasing threat generation whilst reducing damage taken and dealt. Berserker Stance was for the reckless onslaught, increasing damage dealt at the cost of increasing damage taken.
When stances were finally removed from the game following the Warlords of Draenor expansion, Defensive Stance migrated to the Arms talent tree where has been a fixture ever since.
The Current Standing
As a talent, Defensive Stance seems to have been designed with PvP in mind. Although it can be used effectively in PvE settings and doesn’t carry as heavy a penalty to damage dealt, it isn’t the most optimal choice for that environment (something I discuss here) The opposite is true in PvP, with rival talent choices generally being sub-par compared to Defensive Stance.
At the beginning of Battle for Azeroth, the effects of Defensive Stance were uniform across PvE and PvP with damage taken reduced by 20% and damage dealt reduced by 10%. This had the unintended consequence of encouraging a behaviour where Arms Warriors would have Defensive Stance constantly active. It wasn’t a satisfactory tactic, but there was good reason for it; the damage taken reduction outweighed the reduction to damage dealt so it made sense to stay in Defensive Stance for extended periods.
This all changed with the PvP tweaks made after Battle for Azeroth’s release. Defensive Stance in PvP was increased to a 20% damage reduction and ‘stance sitting’ became an unviable tactic. Aside from flag running or orb holding in specific battlegrounds, the talent change means an Arms Warrior will struggle to take out an opponent with Defensive Stance activated. Enemies will either shrug off the warrior’s assault or simply out-damage them.
In view of all this, what then, is Defensive Stance actually good for and how should it be used?
The Defensive Question
First and foremost, Defensive Stance acts as an additional defensive ability for Arms Warriors, something they sorely lack.
The primary Arms defensive ability, Die by the Sword, is a strong protective tool but beyond that, Arms Warriors have little to defend themselves with. Other Arms abilities have indirect defensive qualities but these are minor and situational. Similarly, a Warrior’s plate armour offers the greatest protection of all armour types but is limited to mitigating physical damage. With the profusion of damage categories in the game, a Warrior may as well be running around in wet rags as many abilities will simply ignore their armour.
Consequently, Defensive Stance can be a valuable addition to an Arms Warrior’s defences. Whilst they won’t be able to compete with self-healing classes, Defensive Stance at least allows the Warrior to stay on their feet for longer without relying exclusively on Die by the Sword.
The Cauldron of Battle
In the midst of frenzied battle, judicious use of Defensive Stance can mean the difference between tasting the fruits of victory or the bitter dust of defeat.
Although some Arms Warriors still run around with Defensive Stance permanently on, doing so will hamper damage output, the very thing Warriors excel at. As a general rule, it is better to use the ability when being focused by more than one enemy. In doing so, you can take the sting out of your opponents’ assault and give nearby healers a greater chance of keeping you alive. This is especially important in arena matches where momentum can turn in the blink of an eye and you suddenly become the target of your enemies’ ire.
In a one-versus-one showdown, it’s tempting to throw up Defensive Stance to shield yourself against your foe’s more powerful abilities. However, the damage reduction you incur means you are undermining your own ability to win the fight. Speed is everything for an Arms Warrior. The longer a duel goes on, the lesser your chances of victory. Unlike many other classes, Arms Warriors have no reliable means to sustain themselves for the duration of a protracted combat. If an Arms Warrior wants to win, they need to win quickly. As a result, Defensive Stance can often be more of a hindrance than a help in one-on-one encounters.
Although the majority of duels don’t warrant using Defensive Stance for the reasons outlined above, there are some unique scenarios where it is wise to activate it. These wholly concern clashes with ranged characters where they are about to inflict some heavy damage on you.
Let’s assume you’re out in the open, you’ve been rooted or snared and have no available means to break the effect. Spell Reflection has already been used. Charge and Heroic Leap are also on cooldown, so you’re going nowhere fast. Across the battlefield, you see a Balance Druid, Elemental Shaman, Mage or Warlock beginning to cast their most devastating spell. You won’t be freed from your bonds before it hits and you certainly won’t be able to reach them in the next five or more seconds.
At this point, activating Defensive Stance is a good idea. Not only will it lessen the impact of whatever projectile is heading your way, by the time you have closed the gap with your adversary, you’ll be in a position to deactivate it and bring your full force to bear. This might seem like an unusual circumstance but you’d be surprised (in random PvP at least) how often you’ll find yourself in the firing line. When this does occur, prudent use of Defensive Stance can be a life-saver.
On the subject of self-preservation, there is one more use of Defensive Stance worth mentioning. It is for those fleeting moments, rare as they are, when your god-like colossus has to
run away grudgingly retreat.
PvP, with all its volatility and vicissitudes, will present you with situations where your position is untenable. We Warriors may resent doing it, but if the healers are dead and your comrades have fled, sometimes you have to fall back. When this happens, it makes sense to throw up Defensive Stance to maximise your chances of reaching safety.
Good or bad, useful or unusable, Defensive Stance is here to stay. It’s unlikely it will ever be lauded for its protective supremacy, but neither will it be denigrated for being overpowered. It remains a mildly effective talent that can have great applicability in PvP combat. With some awareness and experience, it can keep your Arms warrior in the fight and thwart enemies who are intent on hastening your demise.
Some Warriors argue that Defensive Stance should be a baseline ability and I think there is a strong case for it to be so. However, until that happens (if it ever does), Arms Warriors need to make as much use of the defensive tools available to them. For this reason, any Arms Warrior serious about PvP should make themselves acquainted with Defensive Stance. With some practice and persistence, it can become a solid addition to the Arms repertoire, however imperfect and unwieldly it may be.