Yesterday we talked about the frankly astonishing state of protection spec in the upcoming Echoes of Doom patch. I then screwed up a perfectly good metaphor by using the word literally in it. And no, I suppose that the patch is not breathing down our necks in a Anne of Green Gables novel, it's doing so in a poorly conceived metaphor that I should have left alone.
Wait, did I just mention it again? Rereading previous paragraph... well dang. Too bad I'm too slow to work out that whole backspace deal. (Wow, this is a long way to go to hang a hat on a screw up from a previous piece.)
For this piece I want to talk about the changes to our DPS specs. How do they hold up in PvP? How are they doing as DPS for instances and raids? Why am I generally much, much more optimistic about these specs than, say, 90% of warriors on the beta right now?
Well, we'll cover that. I'm not going to cover glyphs in too much detail because you won't be seeing them for a bit and many of the best ones will be out of reach until Wrath itself launches.
One big change that's actually managed to be so big I've absorbed it entirely is the change to the holy trinity of warrior abilities: Retaliation, Shield Wall and Recklessness. In exchange for a reduction in each ability's effect (the ability most reduced was recklessness) you now get to use each ability once every five minutes, and they no longer share a cooldown at all. Instead, when using one of these abilities the other two go on a short cooldown to prevent them from being used at the same time. In essence, as a tank you could use Retaliation to help your AoE threat and then use Shield Wall to help stay alive after 12 seconds or so.
Making Things Bleed
Well, if you don't already know it, here's big change number one for PvP arms warriors: mace specialization doesn't stun anymore. If you're running around with a Stormherald, get ready to rely wholly on the mace's proc. It's hard to say that a 15% reduction to armor is a bad thing, mind you, but I have no way of telling how many PvP warriors are going to drop the points in Mace Spec to pick something else up.
The way the new arms tree is designed bases a lot more of its abilities around procs and bleed effects. Rend, for instance, is beefed up, and Improved Rend makes it even better. However, I won't lie to you and tell you that this damage increase is why you're going to want to use rend as an arms warrior. No, you're going to want to use rend due to the various talents that synergize with bleeds. Taste for Blood means that keeping rend up on a target is a very good idea. If you stack expertise to remove dodges in PvE, this ability will allow you to still get the 50% bonus crit chance of your Improved Overpower. Impale no longer requires you to take Deep Wounds, in fact it's reversed: you take Impale to get to Deep Wounds. Imaple itself is unchanged, but Deep Wounds is down to 48% damage over 6 seconds from its current 60%. This is probably due to Trauma, as the two abilities would have stacked for ludicrous amounts of damage. Trauma's ability to increase the effectiveness of bleeds (and not just the bleeds the warrior puts up, either) makes it a very strong raiding talent. Meanwhile, while Sword Specialization gets an inherent cooldown of six seconds between procs (which I thought was already in there... tooltip change or was I just anticipating it?) Poleaxe Specialization gets a nice buff, adding 5% more crtical strike damage to its 5% critical hit bonus. Since Trauma, Sudden Death and Wrecking Crew depend on you critting, this makes axes very, very attractive for PvE and may or may not make them a viable PvP option.
Wreck wreck wreck their heads
Wrecking Crew itself is a very nice ability. Basically it's an Enrage effect that procs off of your melee critical strikes. Now, in PvP this will be modified by resilience but for PvE it's a very strong ability (part of the reason it's there has to be so that arms, fury and prot all had means to use Enraged Regeneration if necessary) and it works very well when you take Sudden Death. You'll now be certain to be enraged when your Execute button lights up (since every crit gives you a 30% chance to use Execute) and you won't be flushing absolutely all of your rage away with each execute. Meanwhile, old reliable Blood Frenzy sees some changes, losing 2% off of the physical damage increase it once provided but granting the warrior an extra 6% to attack speed.
Finally, the new 51 point talent Bladestorm and the return of Sweeping Strikes (albeit a weaker Sweeping Strikes, down to your next five rather than ten melee attacks) to arms means that the tree now has a very potent amount of AoE damage at its disposal. While Bladestorm is problematic for PvP (good in that it renders most forms of CC non-viable, bad in that it also prevents you from using any abilities meaning that you're easily kited) it has no such issues in PvE.
It's clear that the new design elements intend to see arms warriors either stay in battle stance or swicth between berserker and battle to take advantage of chances to proc overpower. Moving Tactical Mastery back to arms seems designed for allowing more fluid stance dancing for an arms DPS rotation as well as giving other specs something to look at in arms. All of these changes ultimately make deep arms a much more attractive DPS spec for PvE: in fact, I believe it's safe to say it's the best performing DPS spec for a level 80 warrior at present on Beta, although that won't be of tremendous concern to you as Echoes of Doom launches. Arms is a strong, well-synergized tree with the new talents but it remains to be seen if PvP warriors will feel anything is compelling enough to spec deep into the tree: I personally hope that talents like Wrecking Crew draw their eyes. But you would be hard pressed to go 51 points in arms for PvP and then only have 10 points to spend elsewhere, when Piercing Howl is still 11 points in fury.
We are Barbarians
When Echoes of Doom launches, you will still be in your level 70 gear, whatever it happens to be. Values for hit and crit will still be the same as they are at present. So in part the changes caused by talents and penalties to said talents won't be as extreme to deal with because you'll need less gear to overcome them.
Yes, I'm talking about Titan's Grip. We'll get it out of the way now and then move on to other things. The penalty listed on that tooltip is higher than we're currently told it will be (down to 12%) so you need less hit to overcome it completely. However, even with just 9% hit Titan's Grip is a DPS upgrade over wielding 2 1h weapons at 70, it shifts your DPS from specials (as is currently the case) to white hits and whirlwinds, which will both hit much harder. All the issues for leveling and level 80 raiding warriors are not going to be there when the talent first goes live. With full precision, you will need 142 hit rating to make TG outperform in all ways, and even below that rating you'll see more white damage from the ability. It effectively shifts damage away from specials and towards white hits. In the picture that accompanies this column you can see that I've cheated by having my draenei warrior be my fury/TG warrior, as his racial 1% hit allows me to drop 15.77 hit rating and still maintain a solid amount. But at level 70, it's simply not very hard to overcome a 12% miss penalty on special attacks, and you will gain significant stats and raw damage from Titan's Grip. Level 80 is a different story, but it's one I'm sure people will be happy to see discussed somewhere else.
Their Attacks Are Furious
What about the rest of fury? Armored to the Teeth is the only new talent in the early tiers. Clearly intended to encourage DPS warriors to stick to plate, it frankly seems better for threat generation for tanking warriors using scaling AP abilities. How much AP would this ability have to have to make up for the superior itemization on many DPS leather items? I'm sure someone's already working out that math as we speak. However, it's free AP, so it's not like it's a bad ability. The next big items to mention are the changes to Enrage: not only is the ability unhitched from Flurry so you can take the latter talent without the former, but Enrage is no longer based on being critically hit, instead giving you a 30% chance to be enraged after taking any damage at all. If you intend on a build that allows for self-healing with Enraged Regeneration you'll probably take this talent. For pure PvE instance/raiding DPS, it's still not the optimal use of your talent points because you're intended not to get hit.
Besides, you can always use Death Wish, now back in fury, as an enrage if you're really needing that healing boost. Death Wish comes back to fury just in time to lose the fear break. Yay.
Intensify Rage, a new talent in the same tier as Bloodthirst, is where things start to get interesting. By reducing the cooldown on four key abilities (Bloodrage being a key to generating fast rage, Recklessness being a means to guarantee up to three critical hits with special attacks, Death Wish being a solid damage boost, and Berserker Rage being a great fear break and helps with rage gen from damage taken) you end up with a solid talent that greatly increases a variety of your abilities. Recklessness every three minutes? Death Wish every 2? Bloodrage every 40 seconds? Berserker Rage every 20? Effective fear immunity, a great deal of rage generation, and solid damge increases. Improved Whirlwind is changed from a cooldown reduction to flat out more damage, which will stack well with Titan's Grip's increase to same.
Furious Attacks, on the other hand, is a pure PvP ability. While there are occasionally bosses in PvE who heal and who therefore suffer from a heal reduction ability like this, 95% of the time you want to reduce incoming heals to other players in a BG or Arena situation. To my eyes this is entirely based around the new paradigm for fury 2h DPS, with white attacks dealing more damage as well as applying this debuff, since it only stacks on regular white damage. The 10 second duration is just there to give warriors a chance to actually stack it, since it's not uncommon for targets to get out of range.
I'm on a Rampage!
Rampage is a sore spot with me. First off, while I understand why so many other warriors hated having to babysit the rampage button, I enjoyed the interactivity of the old version. Furthermore, count me firmly in the camp of people who don't see the raid-wide crit buff of Rampage as being terribly worthwhile when it will always be inferior to LotP. Effectively, it's a nice crit boost for soloing and leveling, and it will be nice if your raid doesn't have a feral anywhere in it, and that's it. Since Rampage has to be activated by a warrior deliveing a critical hit while LotP is always up, it's effectively just a poor man's copycat of the druid ability. But on the other hand, man, I love 5% crit when I'm soloing. It's a thing of beauty. So I'm torn here.
I've covered Bloodsurge in depth. I really like it, not everyone agrees. Heroic Fury is solid, if unremarkable and not terribly innovative in how it plays, begging comparisons to the gone Heroic Leap. Unending Fury is another example of a solid ability that adds nothing in terms of feel to the class. You can't say anything bad about 10% extra damage on key DPS abilities, but it's a wholly internal talent that only shows up as DPS, it doesn't add anything new to rotations or seem as cool as you might hope this deep in the tree. I'd personally prefer it with the rage discount and DPS increases folded together.
In general, fury should still provide solid DPS in PvE and has more PvP viability now. Talents like Intensify Rage and Furious Attacks in particular should help in PvP, as should Heroic Fury. TG is a nice stat increase and gives more damage on white hits at the expense of the fast and furious style of old. due to the general slow speed of 2h weapons. Enrage and Flurry are unyoked giving you more choices, and AttT combined with Imp Berserker Stance could give you a solid boost of AP along with nice crit from Rampage procs. It's not that the tree is really bad (especially since gearing issues won't be as severe at 70) as much as it is that the tree feels somewhat uninspired with rotations being more of the BT - Whirlwind same. Even with Bloodsurge adding instant cast slams (assuming that the talent appeals to you) it's still not going to make up from the unrelenting sameness of the rotation. Don't expect to feel vastly different following the patch.
Some warriors will probably forgo TG entirely for an Impale (12 arms)/Incite (8 prot) build making heavy use of Heroic Strike. (This hastily organized spec shows how it would be possible at 70, but is not meant to be considered the best possible use of those points.) It's possible that deep fury in Wrath will become the deep arms of TBC, only selected by a few diehards. I don't think this will happen, as I believe that with a moderate investment in +hit (especially as the penalty to TG is being reduced to 12%) you'll see much better returns from the 51 point talent, but it's worth mentioning.
And so ends this incredibly long and yet still probably incomplete overview of what's going to happen to warriors this Tuesday when Echoes of Doom launches the final month of The Burning Crusade and prepares the way for the Wrath of the Lich King. Next friday, we resume talking about gear in Wrath.