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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: What the heck just happened?

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is confused and irritable this morning. Matthew Rossi does not understand the purpose of the changes to warriors in 2.3 and, like all warriors, his first response to confusion is to hit things. Well, okay, that's also his first response to most situations. Hey, it works surprisingly often! Anyway, this time he has decided that today's column will be discussing them, as perhaps out of our shared discussion will come enlightenment. Or at least an idea of how he's going to have to respec.

So, yeah, I am at a loss for words. Go ahead and check out the changes and then come on back.

I'm going to reprint the warrior specific changes here and then start discussing them.

Warrior

* Charge will work more often when targets are up against unpathable areas like walls and poles.
* Defiance (Protection) now also grants 2/4/6 weapon expertise.
* Devastate (Protection) now combines the effects of Sunder Armor into its effect. It is also now affected by all talents and items that affect Sunder Armor.
* Disarm is now subject to diminishing returns in PvP.
* Improved Berserker Stance (Fury) now also reduces all threat caused while in Berserker Stance by 2/4/6/8/10%
* Improved Intercept and Weapon Mastery have swapped locations in the talent trees.
* Intervene will no longer place you in combat.
* Hamstring now has a 10 second duration when used on PvP targets.
* Mace Specialization (Arms) now has a reduced chance to occur but generates 7 rage instead of 6.
* Pummel: Interrupting a channeled spell with this ability will now always properly prevent casting spells from the same spell school for 4 sec.
* Shield Bash: Interrupting a channeled spell with this ability will now always properly prevent casting spells from the same spell school for 6 sec.
* Shield Slam (Protection) now always tries to dispel one Magic effect on the target.
* Sweeping Strikes and Deathwish have swapped locations in the talent trees.
* Sweeping Strikes (Fury) now lasts 10 seconds and affects your next 10 swings.
* Tactical Mastery: This talent also now grants greatly increased threat from Mortal Strike and Bloodthirst when in Defensive Stance.
* Weapon Mastery (Arms) now reduces duration of Disarm effects against you by 25/50% rather than giving you a 50% chance to avoid or full immunity to Disarm effects.
* Whirlwind: This ability now strikes with both weapons when a Warrior is dual-wielding.

Some of these are just plain upgrades. The change to Devastate is especially welcome - when I'm tanking I'll probably never bother to hit the Sunder button again. Threat reduction in berserker? Can't see anything bad there. But the changes to the arms and fury trees leave me shaking my head in confusion. Buff or nerf? Honestly, I really can't tell you.

But of course I'm going to try, because otherwise this column is just me going huh? over and over again for a while.


Well, first off, those notes need to decide if Weapon Mastery is an arms talent or a fury talent in 2.3 because when they list the effects of the talent in 2.3 they still designate it as arms, but earlier they state that the talent has changed position in the trees with improved intercept. Quite honestly, if that's the case, then it's a slight buff for arms and a slight nerf for fury. Even though arms has long been the superior tree for PvP, I often would take my fury warriors into a BG because they had talents like Improved Intercept and could at least close the gap to the clothies more often, even though they didn't really do as much damage when they were there. (Fury can be effective, but it's much better if your target will hold still for a few seconds. Most cloth wearing players have this odd phobia about standing still next to a giant cow swinging axes at their heads. Go figure.) The loss of imp intercept for a talent that now doesn't even provide disarm immunity doesn't exactly make me stand up and cheer. Maybe if weapon mastery added some sort of damage component or bonus to hit or, really, something useful... I mean, if I'm fury, I don't even care all that much about being disarmed, as I will probably still have my off hand weapon and I can still Bloodthirst even if I'm disarmed.

Putting Death Wish in arms seems like a really massive buff to arms warrior PvP. Not for the bonus damage. It's a 30 second duration fear break/fear immunity castable every 3 minutes. Giving this to an arms warrior means that they'll now have two fear breaks up in most situations in PvP. I feel bad for priests and warlocks. Giving fury warriors a 10 second, 10 swing version of Sweeping Strikes seems like it will buff their DPS in multi-mob pulls, especially if it meshes well with flurry and rampage - the synergy could make a fury warrior like a combine harvester on trash. Is that worth the loss of a 20% damage buff with a fear breaking component? That's the magic question here. And it's one I don't have an answer for yet, as I couldn't get my characters onto the PTR last night to test it.

The Defiance change to include the new stat Expertise, I don't know how that's going to play out. To quote the patch notes: "Expertise: We have added a new stat and associated rating called expertise and expertise rating. Expertise rating converts to expertise at the same rate that weapon skill rating formerly converted at. Each point of expertise reduces the chance for your attacks to be dodged or parried by 0.25%." As many people have noted, this means that expertise give a better result per point than weapon skill did. But weapon skill added straight up +hit, while the new stat does not. Quite honestly, this is a really big change in general for warriors: are we going to be missing more? Are we going to see our attacks hit more now that we're dodged and parried less? Tanking warriors already know how bad it can hurt your aggro to suddenly go on a miss streak while the casters are blowing the mob up, if this negatively impacts how often we hit that will be a bad thing in capital letters dancing in a sequined leotard on top of a fifty foot tall sign that reads Say Goodbye To Your Threat set proudly atop the Hollywood hills. But if we end up hitting more due to the reduction in dodges and parries (if that's what happens) then it's such a good thing for tanking that Blizzard staffers will have to hide under their desks for fear of random wet sloppy kisses from the tanking community. In general, most all tanks and even some fury warriors who offtank have defiance, so we'll know what this is doing fairly soon I'd bet.

The change to Tactical Mastery is interesting. WIth the changes to the arms and fury trees, I find myself wondering if we're going to see a lot of 41/5/15 builds or 5/41/15 builds going for viability in soloing/grinding or PvP and tanking/offtanking as well. Giving extra threat to Mortal Strike or Bloodthirst in defensive is one way to encourage more offspec tanking, which could go a long way to alleviating the supposed 'tanking shortage' - if all an arms warrior needs to tank is to pick up defiance, she may well go for it if she doesn't think it's going to hurt her PvP options too much.

The rest of the changes either seem to be bug fixes or adjustments (Shield Slam and Shield Bash), overall adjustments to the entirely of CC/snares in PvP (Hamstring duration) or just nice candy. Yes, I'm talking about the change to Whirlwind. Whirlwind hitting with both weapons seems to confirm the idea that fury is being aimed at a more multi-mob DPS role, when combined with the threat reduction in zerk stance and the addition of a more-dynamic version of sweeping strikes, fury seems to be aimed at becoming, in effect, a melee AoE class. These changes will probably allow rogues to maintain their comfortable lead as kings of single target melee DPS. Whether they will make fury warriors more viable for multi-mob pulls or will end up with a lot of dead fury warriors, I can't really say until I manage to get through the character copy process on the PTR.

As you can see, this patch is a surprisingly varied one for warriors. Some straightforward buffs to tanking for just about all specs, some very interesting changes that buff some aspects of the talent trees while nerfing other aspects of other trees, and a big change to the very core mechanism of the class. (Expertise directly effects us classes that smack things the most.) Overall, I still don't quite know what to make of it.

Now, fly forth unto the comments and leave devastation in your wake! Discuss! What just happened to us warriors in 2.3? Good or bad? Make like Nostradamus already.

Filed under: Warrior, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Talents, Buffs, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors

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