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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: When words are insufficient


Go and read this.

Yeah. I mean... yeah. Hard to come up with a response to that, isn't it? Well, okay, I had one. I believe I turned to my wife (lovely and talented mistress of beasts and long time WoW partner) and I began gibbering like a maniac who had just stumbled upon a shipment of new chainsaws. As I write this, the download is 41 percent complete, and I am nearly losing my mind with each slow, incremental tick of the bar towards completion. Titan's Grip with no speed penalty? Furious Attack? You're telling me that I'm going to be able to main hand this with no speed penalty at all? That my white hits are going to have 100% chance to debuff healing by up to 50% for up to 8 seconds? That my melee critical hits are going to increase the melee criticals of myself and everyone within 20 yards of me by 5% for 10 seconds?

I'm not even talking about the arms tree buffs yet. I hereby dub this beta patch "The patch warriors will never actually see go live" because it's simply too amazing. While yes, mace specialization has been nerfed, I honestly hated it anyway: getting stunlocked is bad enough, but it's even worse when it's another warrior doing it. The new version doesn't really offer much, though, I can't imagine anyone taking it over Sword or Poleaxe.

Okay, first off, let's get the squee out of the way: I logged onto beta as soon as I could get it all downloaded and went off to kill things with the new Titan's Grip. The complete reduction of the speed penalty is a wonderful thing. Yes, these are still slow weapons, but it's a noticeable improvement (and I liked Titan's Grip beforehand, so you can imagine how much I like it now) in DPS. I got so excited that I even logged onto my human warrior, specced him fury, and equipped an old friend.

Okay, enough marking out for one talent, as awesome as it is. (In case anyone's wondering, yes, Sulf actually works pretty well as a fury OH. DPS is low, but the fireball still procs fairly regularly.) Let's look at each tree's changes and discuss them. I'm currently unable to find a better list of patch notes than these, so these are the ones I'm using.

Arms
  • Bladestorm now lasts 6 seconds instead of 4.5 seconds.
  • Strength of Arms moved from tier 10 to tier 8. Changed to a 2 point talent and now increases your total strength and total health by 2/4% (was 1/2/3/4/5%)
  • New talent - Wrecking Crew (Tier 10) - Your melee critical hits have a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to Enrage you, increasing all damage caused by 3% for 12 sec.
  • Blood Frenzy now makes your Rend and Deep Wounds abilities also increase all physical damage caused to that target by 1/2%. (was 2/4/%)
  • Improved Mortal Strike now increases the damage caused by your Mortal Strike ability by 2/4/6/8/10% and gives your Enraged Assault ability a 6/12/18/24/30% chance to refresh the cooldown of Mortal Strike.
  • Trauma has been moved from tier 8 to tier 9.
  • Unrelenting Assault now reduces the cooldown of your Overpower and Revenge by 2/4 seconds. (was 1/2 seconds)
  • Mace Specialization changed, it now gives your melee attacks a chance to generate 10 rage when using a Mace.
  • Improved Charge now increases the amount of rage generated by your charge ability by 5/10 (was 3/6).
  • Bloodletting has been renamed to Improved Rend once again, and doesn't affect Bloodbath anymore.
  • Improved Slam (Tier 7) has been moved to the Arms tree.
  • New talent - Taste for Blood (Tier 4) - Whenever your Rend ability causes damage, you have a 10/20/30% chance of allowing the use of your Overpower ability for 5 secs.
  • New talent - Justified Killing (Tier 4) - You gain 6 rage every time you parry an attack.
The Bladestorm change is a buff, although I don't know if it's enough of one to get me interested in the talent. Strength of Arms is a positive change. Sure, you lose the benefit of that fifth point, but you now spend two points to get the same benefit that four points would have bought you before. Blood Frenzy has been nerfed, Improved Mortal Strike has been heavily buffed with the addition of the cooldown reset making the new Enraged Assault instant very useful for arms warriors, especially since the new talent Wrecking Crew will enrage you. There's potential for a cascade effect as the arms warrior crits, gets enraged by Wrecking Crew, uses Enraged Assault and resets the MS cooldown for another chance at a big honking MS crit. Meanwhile, that initial crit increases the effects of all bleeds on the target by 30% thanks to Trauma. Meanwhile, talents like Unrelenting Assault and Taste for Blood ensure that you're going to try and keep Rend up on a target so that Overpower will light up and will be cooled down when it does.

I've seen commenters pointing out that all this use of Overpower seems to be trying to make Battle Stance the default for arms warriors. I'm going to hope that this points to a reworking of the stance system to abandon the current penalties or at least ameliorate them to some degree. Battle Stance, for instance, has no real benefit or penalty while Defensive has the 10% reduction to the damage taken (a plus) and 10% reduction of the damage dealt (a minus) and Berserker Stance increases your critical strike by 3% but increases the damage you take by 10%. Combine this with the rage dump aspect of the stance switches and you have a system that seems quaint and an artifact of an old game design philiosophy that's clearly not present in the design of Death Knight Presences, for example. Presences have no negatives, merely positive aspects, and there's no 'neutral' presence that effectively does nothing. Add to that the fact that Battle Stance has no fear break and the interrupt usable in it is Shield Bash, not Pummel, and I see this as a slightly odd move on Blizzard's part if they don't continue modifying the stances to some degree.

Justified Killing is just kind of weird to me. Not bad, mind you, but it just seems odd because it seems like a reason to spec into arms to some degree for a prot warrior. It's reachable by level 80, and the only thing I really would miss is the 2 points in Cruelty I had to sacrifice (you can probably come up with a better way to get to it, I just went fast and dirty) but I'm not sure I'd go that route, and it doesn't seem all that important for a DPS/PvP arms build. Rage is rage, though.

Arms seems buffed but still in need of some tweaking to my eyes. There's fascinating implications for chaining Overpowers, and I'm hopeful that Improved Slam will be very useful for a warrior using a 2h weapon to DPS in a raid with arms. Let's hope Slam doesn't reset the swing timer in Wrath.

Now we'll talk about Prot.

Protection
  • Stalwart Protector (Tier 8 ) has been removed.
  • Shield Mastery (Tier 6) Changed to increase block value by 10/20/30%.
  • Improved Sunder Armor (Tier 4) renamed to Puncture.
  • Improved Shield Block (Tier 3) Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20 sec. (Previously 5/10 sec)
Hold yourselves back from that explosion of rapture, guys, you'll hurt yourselves.

In all sincerety, prot's already pretty strong. But the changes here are either insignificant or baffling. In addition to the talent changes, baseline abilities like Thunder Clap got nerfed. Shield Block's on a minute cooldown now, for an ability that adds 100% to block for five seconds? And I hope you weren't jazzed about Stalwart Protector.

I honestly don't know why you'd want to nerf prot in any way. I'm actually scratching my head, as minor as these changes are, that they were made at all. I'm going to hope that it indicates that there is some thought about removing the damage penalty to Defensive Stance and they feel something has to go in that case, because otherwise I'm just confused here. Shield Mastery's nice though. I was going to take it anyway.

In general this doesn't really worry me as a protection spec warrior on Live... the tree's still strong, I'll still tank with it... but it doesn't really excite me either. I don't mind them changing shield block to try and reduce how often it's spammed, but I don't like how it's getting less and less usable but doesn't see any real improvements in what it does when it's used. If you're making it at best usable once every forty seconds with talents, then make it do something more impressive than add 100% block for five seconds once I use it. Ten seconds, maybe?

We've covered Arms (buffed, still needs work) and Protection (very slight changes, still good) so now we come to Fury.

Fury

  • Heroic Leap moved from Tier 11 to Tier 9.
  • Titan's Grip moved from Tier 10 to Tier 11. It is now 1 rank and Allows you to equip two-handed axes, maces and swords in one hand. No speed penalty anymore.
  • Furious Resolve (Tier 9) removed.
  • New Talent - Furious Attacks (Tier 8 ) - Your normal melee attacks have a 50/100% chance to reduce all healing done to the target by 25% for 8 sec. This can stack up to 2 times.
  • Rampage (Tier 9) completely changed: Your melee critical hits cause you to go on a rampage, increasing melee critical hit chance of all party and raid members within 20 yds by 5%. Lasts 10 sec.
  • Intensify Rage moved to Tier 5 and completely changed: Reduces the cooldown of your Bloodrage, Berserker Rage, Recklessness and Deathwish abilities by 11/22/33%.
  • Improved Slam (Tier 5) Moved to arms.
  • Death Wish is (Tier 5) now flagged as an Enrage.
  • Enrage (Tier 4) now gives you 3/6/9/12/15% increased damage after being the victim of a critical strike. It now works on all attacks for 12 sec. (Previously 5/10/15/20/25% and lasted for 12 swings)
  • New talent - Unending Fury (Tier 10) - Reduces the rage cost of your Cleave, Whirlwind and Bloodthirst abilities by 1 and gives your Enraged Assault ability a 6/12/18/24/30% chance to refresh the cooldown of Bloodthirst.
Welcome to buff city, population fury warriors.

Heroic Leap I haven't had a chance to test out yet (I plain forgot to) but if it's still hard to target it's still not good, and if it becomes more easily targetable it will become good. We all know how I feel about Titan's Grip, so we'll just say Yay Titan's Grip Yay woo-hoo yay and move on from there. (Yay.) Furious Attacks isn't as crazily overpowered as you might expect, even at the fully talented level, because when you're DWing two big slow weapons it can be somewhat difficult to keep it up on a target if it moves around a lot. It's very nice, however, and not just for PvP either. The Rampage change is unadulterated win, in my opinion. Not only is it a raid buff now (adding 5% melee crit to anyone within 20 yards of you) but you don't have to do anything. No global cooldown to consider, no having to spend rage, it just activates when you crit. The best part is, it then increases the chance it will stay up! Even though I miss the AP of old Rampage, I still like this change.

Intensify Rage is a buff for DPS specs. Instead of giving you more rage when you take damage (which DPS in an instance or raid don't want to do) you get to use your DPS abilities more often. Nothing bad about that, even if Recklessness still isn't very good anymore. Death Wish will now help you use Enraged Assault, since it flags as an enrage. Speaking of, Enrage itself got nerfed. Something had to give, I guess. Unending Fury combines with Bloodsurge very nicely. You'll use Bloodthirst more often, possibly resetting its cooldown, get more crits (which will proc Rampage and increase your crit rate) and giving you more instant cast slams with a higher crit rate.

Fury's looking really nice both for raid bonuses and more active DPSing. You'll be working your Enraged Assaults in as much as possible trying to reset that Bloodthirst cooldown, spending less rage to do so, and hitting people in the face with an instant slam whenever possible. More reactive, with more burst DPS potential and the Titan's Grip changes make that talent simply marvelous. Of the three trees, Fury really got the greatest share of dev love in this patch. It's still not perfect (Heroic Leap needs work) but it's pretty nice nonetheless.

Okay, that's enough coverage of the latest beta changes, I think. The implication here is that the devs are seriously looking over how warriors function as DPS, with the down side being perhaps some spotlight having been shifted away from tanking. We'll see how it all shakes out, but I'm very optimistic again.

Next week, barring any big changes being sprung on me at midnight of the day the column goes live, we'll try and get back into talking about tanking in current endgame.


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, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items, Expansions, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Wrath of the Lich King

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