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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Wrath on the horizon

The Care and Feeding of Warriors waxes philosophical this week. Matthew Rossi has been switching between a tank and a DPS warrior all week and it's gotten him all misty eyed.

I think it's fair to say now that the shockwaves from the oncoming expansion are being felt. Guilds are disbanding, new ones are being formed, you see people reporting that they've burned out on the existing content while others try and get groups together so they can see it before it is essentially 'gone'. Some guilds are rerolling on the opposite faction, or taking a more casual approach.

All this is to me at least very familiar: I was in Naxxramas the last time the pre-expansion wave hit (I don't really consider it a 'depression' as such because it had some positive effects for me as well as negative ones) and I simply got tired of doing what I had been doing since MC and rerolled Horde. It ended up saving the game for me, I made a lot of really good friends Horde side (Go Consummate Vees) and when I went back to my alliance characters I did so feeling refreshed and ready to tank. Learning how to adapt to the new realities of tanking (prot spec becoming a lot more necessary, for just one example) with 10 more points to spend and 41 point talents to consider helped make it a whole new game for me.

As things stand, I'm fortunate enough to be in two guilds (one horde, one alliance) that are raiding at different progression levels. One's moving into Hyjal and BT, phasing out the SSC/TK raids, and the other is just starting to consider regular 25 man runs. I play a warrior in both: my human is a dedicated main tank, while my tauren is a DPS/offtank. As a result, I'm getting to see a lot of fights I've only ever seen from the perspective of standing in something's crotch calling it names from the fresh new perspective of standing behind it stabbing it.

It turns out that Nalorakk has a massive butt. I mean, seriously, that thing is just huge. I'd never seen it before. Now I'm wondering if Supremus could possibly have so impressive a hinder. It'll probably be a while before I can check, though.

Anyway, today's column is about the future of the warrior class. It will involve groundless speculation on what is to come for warriors as tanks and DPS and even more groundless speculation on where we're going in PvP. I have not been slipped an invite to any alpha tests, I have no secret connections. I'm just looking around the game as it seems to be preparing for change... watching guilds fall and new guilds rise, seeing long-time friends retire from the game while others come back lured by the idea of getting to see Northrend... and it feels familiar, so I wanted to talk about it.

First off, if you happen to be in a tizzy about the coming of Death Knights, don't be. Yes, they're melee. Yes, they're tanks and DPS. Yes, they can tank with a 2h weapon or dual wielding they way you kept trying to tank Blackrock Depths. I heartily encourage you to roll one as soon as the expansion hits and take it for a test drive, but I don't think this is in any way, shape or form the end of warriors in either of those roles. Just as warriors overcame rage normalization and are still out there tanking now, more than a year after Burning Crusade launched, the addition of a new class, one that only has the exact same two roles warriors currently occupy, isn't going to stop warriors from tanking or DPSing. Sure, there will be some rerolling and some competition for raid slots, but any doomsaying is at this point extremely premature.

For one thing, they're going to be level 55 when Northrend launches. It will take them a while to catch up, and so many warriors (and druids and paladins for that matter) will already be tanking the new instances while Death Knights scramble to quest their way through Outland while crickets chirp in the background. Windrocs will once again peacefully swan through the air of Nagrand, safe from relentless dwarven poaching, hampered only by the occasional DK wandering by. Meanwhile, you'll be hitting Vrykul in the face. For another thing, we still have very little idea how DK's will tank. One of the more interesting things to come out of the discussion of DK's as tanks is the following quote:

Worldofwar.net also mentions that Tom Chilton, in his Death Knight presentation, told them that they are leaning toward letting all tank types do more DPS while tanking.

This to me says that not only is any panic about DK's stealing any tanking or DPS roles is not only premature, it's flawed, rooted in the idea that tanking in Wrath will be fundamentally the same as tanking is now. I don't think it will be. Think back to your MC/BWL/AQ40/Naxx raiding days, if you were a tank back then. Warriors pretty much were the only tanks, with bear druids in some situations and the occasional really stubborn paladin. Of those warrior tanks, many guilds (not all) had one warrior specced full protection, and then a lot of arms/fury or fury/arms hybrids in tanking gear. I tanked up to Gluth as 31/5/15 for Defiance, and one of our tanks never even went that far into protection. He tanked Sapphiron with a 31/20/0 build.

This snapshot of the way tanking used to be isn't just included for nostalgia, it's an example of an outdated paradigm. The ten levels that we gained from 60 to 70 changed things, introduced more tanking options for warriors as well as two new tanking classes, and in the end warriors who want to tank still are. Nothing's perfect, and my thoughts on the imbalance for protection spec warriors who lack Tier 4 or better gear are well known, but the fact is warrior tanks didn't go away. Warriors as DPS didn't go away. And they won't go away this time, either.

I expect to see each tanking class apart from warriors further specialize into their relative niches. Paladins will continue to develop as AoE tanks, Bears will see gear improvements that make them the highest armor and health choice, and DK's seem to be headed for an anti-caster role. And warriors? Well, warriors (I expect) will be able to do any of these things, admittedly less effectively than the niche tanks but with the benefit of the warrior 'bag of tricks', what a friend of mine likes to call the "Holy crap did you know he could do that" buttons. But if all tanking classes gain more abilities to tank with DPS we'll see a shift in how threat is generated that could be, frankly, a breath of fresh air for the warrior.

As for warriors as DPS... I don't think rage will ever scale poorly. My tauren, with his mix of PvP and PvE gear, can still put out impressive DPS on command because of abilities like Rampage and Flurry, and when he hits his stride can find himself with more rage than he knows what to do with. Well, okay, he knows what to do with it. It's not that complex. Put stabby or smashy thing "A" into monster "B". The refreshing straightforwardness of warrior DPS (not simple, mind you, the complex calculations that the top DPS warriors go into can be quite astonishing, but brutally honest - warrior DPS is about hitting things until they fall down and long may it remain so) is unlikely to change, it's still the same basic formula as it was back when you took 40 people though BRD to get to the MC portal. But with ten new levels and new talents, I can't pretend that I know how warriors will DPS in the future. I do wonder if dual wielding will remain our top DPS option (it's already rivaled by 2h slam if used properly) and I wouldn't mind seeing new playstyles and new types of DPS warriors emerge from the expansion.

One thing I really hope we see this time is better top tier talents for all three specs. Devastate is an excellent 41 point talent now, but it wasn't as great when the expansion first launched. Adding the sunder armor effect to the ability made it golden, I hate to tank without it now. Rampage may be situational but it can really contribute to DPS when used properly. Any ability that scales with AP (Bloodthirst, Victory Rush) gains from it. But Endless Rage suffers from being so far up the arms tree that it becomes impossible to take it and still get points into Enrage and Flurry. Now, I personally think that ER is an underrated talent that mostly gets ignored because of this problem: PvP warriors in particular want to get Flurry, while a PvE arms warrior might be willing to forgo it for the rage generation of ER. But it still rankles me that when the previous expansion launched, none of these talents really stopped the show: Devastate only got good in patch 2.3, for example.

I don't know what the 51 point talents will be. I know some things I would like to see (some form of talent that allows warriors to dual wield 2h weapons, scaled so they're not ridiculously overpowered... yes, I know this is ridiculous but I've wanted it ever since D&D came out with Monkey Grip) but if you'd asked me to predict devastate back in the day I wouldn't have. I want to see warriors remain the Swiss Army Knives of tanking, so I'd like to see a 51 point protection talent that actually helps protect someone else... perhaps an extension of Intervene that allows you to literally castle, switch positions with someone who is about to be hit by an attack or an enraged mob. The 51 point fury talent should in some way work with the thematic linkage between warriors and rage, perhaps making it beneficial for a warrior to hold onto some rage (imagine a situation where you could gain a bonus to your damage reduction based on how much rage you had, making DPS an interesting trade off between spending rage for high DPS abilities or hoarding rage for some survivability).

This is all just speculation, again, and totally unfounded. I want to dual wield 2h weapons! Heck, my Gorehowl hasn't got that much more DPS than the Vanir's fists.

Well, this has been a long drink of water and I know it's not to everyone's tastes. The TL:DR version?

Warriors will be fine in Wrath. DK's are not going to steal your jerb. Tanking and DPS will be different, perhaps even radically so, but we'll adapt. Hopefully this time the 51 point talents will be cool out of the box. Warriors should get to dual wield 2h weapons. I'm obsessed with a ridiculous idea.

I didn't get to go into PvP as much as I wanted... this thing is already a chapter in Moby Dick at this point, so I'll save more detailed thoughts for next week. For now, I'll just say this:

There will always be warriors in PvP. They'll always find ways to use their talents to mess people up. They'll always endure being frozen, burned, coiled, stunlocked, scattered and keep coming back to pound faces into the ground. Forever and ever. All the expansion will do is create new ways for this to happen.
Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for Warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column: The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

Filed under: Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Wrath of the Lich King

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