I tend to view the variety of tanking classes in terms of how they deal with incoming damage (especially the active mitigation component), not necessarily what weapons they equip, whether or not they can block, or what major cooldowns they have. My short summary with major mastery effects noted(m) is:
- Warriors - Increased block(m) or a universal absorb, a small self heal.
- Paladins - A universal absorb, physical damage reduction(m), some self healing.
- DK's - A physical damage absorb(m), a lot of self healing(m).
- Druids - Increased dodge or major self healing, other self healing, high armor(m).
- Monks - Increased parry and dodge, stagger(m) and purify, some self healing.
Looking at it this way, I'd say we have 2 avoidance heavy tanks (Monks and Druids), 2 absorb tanks (Pallys and DK's), with Warriors having both an absorb and increased block. The new tank spec would have to be unique enough from each of them, while also bringing something new to the table. Let's go with the author's Blademaster (Blade), dual wielding.
First off, I think mastery would have to be unique. Compensating for the lack of block with a different kind of block (blocking with two crossed weapons) based on mastery as the article suggests is, with all due respect to the author's greater Warrior background, inelegant when tied to mastery. It's too much of a block clone, bringing nothing really new to the table. I suggest instead having the crossed swords mechanic (which is totally cool, don't get me wrong) made a passive effect. Be in Defensive Stance, and the effect is always mitigating damage. As an aside, crossing swords is not an effective technique in real life.
I think a more unique mastery effect would be better tied to two active mitigation abilities:
First, an attack that casts a buff when it lands, boosting dodge/parry simultaneously. Lets call it Wind Blade (WB), and give it a 60 rage cost, as Prot Warriors active mitigation has. This would be like a combination of Monk's Shuffle and Druid's Savage Defense in principle. What's new is mastery having an effect on this type of active mitigation, as Paladins and DK's have on theirs.
This leaves non-physical damage still unaccounted for, and I think this is a great place to incorporate self healing. All tanks self heal to some degree or another, but none so much as DK's do. I think there's room to share this concept.
Perhaps mastery can buff a Blademaster's self healing using abilities already present in the Warrior toolkit, along with some new kind of self heal for 60 rage. Let's call it Burning Blade (BB). This would make Blade's active mitigation mirror Prot's. Where Prot has block (Shield Block) or absorb (Shield Barrier), Blade has dodge/parry (WB) or self healing (BB).
Now before you say "Congratulations, you just invented a Druid with parry!" first consider what we could do with BB. Let's make it an attack that casts a buff when it lands, causing all damage done to be copied as a self heal, modified by a percentage that works out so that it doesn't overshadow WB in all circumstances. I think it would stack well with Berserker Rage.
What we have then is a dual-wielding Warrior tank, with a flat amount of a different kind of block, one active mitigation that uses mastery, and a second active mitigation that uses mostly strength, mastery, hit, and expertise. Also useful to a certain degree would be haste and crit. Too many stats? Let's fix that.
We can make 7.5% hit and expertise caps valuable by making so that both WB and BB must land to cast their respective buffs, while also making them unable to be parried. Hit and expertise would be boosting the amount BB heals for significantly. While haste and crit would also boost BB healing, they would likely not be as powerful contributors as mastery, if balanced correctly. What we then have is all strength plate being useful to Blade tanks, but with a probable stat priority of mastery>7.5% hit/exp>dodge/parry>crit/haste.
This really is fun. Next I'm going to talk about how Hunters should be able to tank.