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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Wrath Beta Edition

Well, we were going to talk about other things, but with the Beta coming out I have to admit I've entirely forgotten what they were. There's really no point in pretending that we're not going to be talk about this, is there? I don't think so myself.

We learn nothing about any new talents that don't directly replace older talents. Nothing about Bladestorm or Titan's Grip, and talents like Incite are only mentioned because they're directly replacing talents like Defiance. We also don't learn what the big new protection talent to replace Shield Slam is from these notes. (We do have other sources and we will be discussing those talents in more depth, I'm just pointing out what the notes don't specifically mention.) The notes focus more on protection spec than others although we do find out that mace spec and sword spec are being slightly nerfed while poleaxe spec is getting a nice little buff: these changes seem PvP related to my eyes, but I have no idea how effective they'll actually be.

The juggling of talents and the alteration of their effects definitely seems to confirm the notion that crushing blows are a thing of the past. On the one hand, this is a huge change to warrior tanking mechanics, as we're noted for our ability to hit uncrushability while druid tanks simply soak the damage with higher armor and stamina (paladins use the same mechanic as we do for uncrushable, they just need more block rating but can stay uncrushable longer than we can due to how their abilities work vs. ours): we've yet to see how this is going to play out. With the addition of DK's as tanks, removing CB's keeps them from having to rely on a gimmicky high parry (since they won't use a shield to tank) to avoid being crushed, but it also means that warriors will need a means to stay competitive with other tanks. Threat seems to be getting entirely reworked, so for now I'm cautiously optimistic about where tanking is heading for protection spec warriors, and indeed, all warriors.

I'll go so far as to say that arms and fury warriors will be tanking in Wrath. I don't expect them to be dedicated main tanks for raids, but I do expect to see them tanking in five mans without respeccing, and that is without taking the possible two talent spec idea into account.Let's look at the patch notes again, shall we? Yes, we shall, since I'm the one writing this.

Warrior
  • Anticipation (Protection) now increases chance to dodge by 1/2/3/4/5%, moved to tier 2.
  • Challenging Shout cooldown reduced to 3 minutes.
  • Death Wish (Fury) no longer makes you immune to Fear effects.
  • Death Wish and Sweeping Strikes have swapped locations in their respective talent trees.
  • Defensive Stance now increases threat by 45%.
  • Defiance (Protection) removed, replaced by Incite and moved to a new location on tier 2.
  • Hamstring now only has one rank and no longer causes damage.
  • Improved Bloodrage (Protection) now increases rage generation of both the instant and over-time effects by 25/50%.
  • Improved Disarm (Protection) now reduces the cooldown of Disarm and Shield Break by 5/10/15 seconds and increases damage taken by disarmed targets by 4/7/10%.
  • Improved Shield Block (Protection) now has 2 ranks and reduces cooldown of Shield Block by 5/10 secs. It no longer increases the number of blocks.
  • Iron Will (Arms) now has only 3 ranks, reducing the duration of Stun and Charm effects by 10/20/30%.
  • Last Stand (Protection) cooldown reduced to 6 minutes.
  • Mace Specialization (Arms) can no longer trigger more than once per 6 seconds.
  • Mocking Blow now only has one rank and causes weapon damage, cooldown reduced to 1 min and can now be used in Defensive Stance.
  • Overpower now only has one rank and no longer causes any bonus damage (i.e. weapon damage only).
  • Poleaxe Specialization (Arms) now also increases critical damage done by Axes and Polearms by 1/2/3/4/5%.
  • Pummel now only has one rank and no longer causes damage.
  • Shield Bash now only has one rank and will cause damage based on a % of AP.
  • Shield Block now increases chance to block and amount blocked by 100% for the next attack. Cooldown increased to 30 seconds.
  • Shield Slam is now available to all warriors, starting at level 40.
  • Shield Specialization (Protection) moved to Tier 1, now increases rage by 2 on a successful block.
  • Sword Specialization (Arms) can no longer trigger more than once per 6 seconds.
  • Toughness (Protection) moved to tier 3.
For starters, the change to anticipation means that warrior defense (and hence your ability to become immune to critical hits via defense) is purely a matter of gear now. Warriors have no talent that will reduce incoming critical hits: you either have the defense on your gear or you do not. This also reduces the other benefits of defense to purely gear-based. Now, 5% dodge isn't bad, as it's pure avoidance (although as a warrior, sometimes you want to get hit for rage purposes, at least at present.... big miss streaks can be very bad for threat) but I do find myself wondering at the design philosophy behind the change. The protection tree is seeing a lot of changes and new talents: Defiance's removal and the boost to pure threat for Defensive Stance and the change to Shield Slam (it becoming a trainable skill rather than a talent) certainly seems to indicate that the focus for protection as a talent spec is shifting away to some degree from tanking threat and focusing more than ever on tanking survivability.

However, before we read too much into anything, consider Sword and Board, a new protection ability on the tenth tier. This is a pure threat generation ability. 10% chance to refresh the cooldown on Shield Slam AND reducing the rage cost by 100% whenever you use Devastate or Shield Slam? Considering how often protection warriors use these two abilities, this is going to be up a lot. If one out of ten devastates gives me a free shield slam, considering devastate is one of our few spammable abilities, I can't help but think that this will be a great deal of threat.

The change to Shield Block concerns me, not just for what it says about crushing blows and uncrushability (in fact, I'm not all that concerned about that) but for the fact that Shield Block will no longer be triggering a Revenge every six seconds. Revenge is currently an ability I use at least once every six seconds or so, as a block can easily be forced with the current SB. The change to that ability means that revenge will be more reiliant on passive blocks, dodges and parries... perhaps making Anticipation more useful than it initially appears.

For non-tanks, we once again see Sweeping Strikes and Death Wish switch places, with Death Wish being pretty nerfed by the removal of the fear immunity and Sweeping Strikes now only working for your next five attacks rather than its current ten. I guess these two talents will never be adjusted to anyone's satisfaction: I do wonder how SS is going to work with the new Bladestorm talent. It's faily clear to me that Bladestorm is where the fear immunity from Death Wish has gone, which means Blizzard wants warriors to have to invest fairly heavily in arms to get a second fear break. In addition, arms definitely seems to be the "I cut you!" tree now, with Bloodbath, Blood Frenzy and Trauma. Arms warriors will be making things bleed. While this will continue to be a means to increase raid wide physical DPS (especially if Blood Frenzy also works with Bloodbath, which is unclear as of now, the tooltip does not specifically say it does) but if my suspicion about arms warriors tanking at least five mans is correct, you can expect to see Bloodbath and other bleeds used as aggro tools. Rend, often sneered at as the weakest DoT in the game, might actually serve a purpose in this regard.

The changes to Challenging Shout and Mocking Blow combine with abilities like Shockwave to help increase warrior multi-mob tanking ability as well as giving protection warriors some more oomph for soloing and grinding. Shockwave is semi-spammable (20 second cooldown) which means I can't imagine many warrior tanks not using it if they don't have to worry about CC, and the fact that it's a frontal cone instead of an AoE means that with careful positioning you should be able to avoid saps and sheeps with it. I do wonder if Mocking Blow is intended as a threat move now. With a one minute cooldown I think it's more likely to serve as an extra taunt for emergencies.

I don't really understand why hamstring and pummel had their damage removed. Then again, Shield Bash had its damage increased and improved shield bash will now increase the damage of all those shield slams all warriors will be doing, so your guess is as good as mine as to why the change.

Of course, I've talked a lot about Titan's Grip. That's because it is awesome. We can just all agree on that and move on, but right now I'm actually just as excited about the possibilities inherent in Heroic Leap. Combined with the various changes we're seeing from the patch notes and the implications of them (that all warriors will have the equivalent of current defiance in defensive stance and access to shield slam as well as abilities like Incite, defiance's replacement, being relatively easy to obtain with a minimal investment in prot) and I'm starting to imagine a fury/prot hybrid tank using Heroic Leap to hurl himself into a mass of targets, stunning them for 2 seconds, doing 50% weapon damage while tanking with a big 2h weapon in one hand, shield slamming and throwing out crit boosted, AP adjusted thunderclaps and cleaves.

Then I hear choruses of angels in my head and I need to sing for a few seconds. I really can't help but take this statement and others like it to mean that there's going to be a lot more hybrid viability for all three talent trees for both DPS and tanking roles. We already know that warriors are very gear dependent, but with attack power helping both protection/tanking abilities and DPS abilities, it may be possible and even desirable to see the lines between 'dps' and 'tanking' plate shift a bit. In a way it's similar to the unified spellpower concept, where the same basic stat (attack power) is used for two previously distinct roles (tanking and DPS).

I can't help it, I'm very excited about the new talents and skills for warriors and the teasing hints at the new design philosophy for the class, even if I am concerned about changes to core tanking mechanics I've always relied upon like uncrushability and the shield block/revenge combo. In my wildest dreams I envision a scenario where fury, arms and protection warriors are all viable for DPS and tanking, and it comes down more to 'what do you want to play' choice instead of 'you must be fury to DPS, you must be prot to tank, you must be arms to PvP' design philosophy. I mean, Heroic Leap looks pretty awesome for PvP.

Now it's up to you. What do you think? Are you excited? How can you not be excited, are you made of stone, did you not read the description of Heroic Leap or Shockwave? Go back and do that and then come back and be excited, or at least explain how you can manage not to be. Cause I'm freaking excited. I could literally keep going on and on about each new skill, talent or change but frankly if I don't stop now I will probably never be able to stop. So it's on to you and your reactions.
Hungry for more Wrath of the Lich King Beta news? WoW Insider has a slew of articles for you now that the NDA has been lifted and the Beta forums open up to the public. Keep checking the site for more class analysis and insights to the changes.

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

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