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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: DPS itemization and encounters

The Care and Feeding of Warriors continues looking at gear and class design this week with a discussion of DPS warriors itemization and how they interact with encounters. Matthew Rossi has had a lot of time to think about this stuff since he switched back to tanking.

If you've been looking over the itemization on Icecrown Citadel gear you may, like me, have noticed that some of the items that one could conceivably acquire are itemized more straightforwardly. We'll use Shadow's Edge, the precursor to Shadowmourne, as an example. If Shadowmourne didn't exist, people would look at this weapon with its 3.7 speed, two red sockets, ArP and Crit Strike rating and massive native strength and would be going ape over it. It's difficult to get, but I expect every single serious DPS warrior, be he arms or fury, will at least do the chain for Shadow's Edge if there's any way he or she can do so. Of course, the face that you will need to beat two bosses in 25 man difficulty and then get 25 of the IC equivalent to Crusader Orbs indicates that not every serious DPS warrior (especially not serious DPS warriors who exclusively run 10 mans) will be able to do so. Furthermore, with Icecrown progressing via gates it will be a few weeks before you even get the chance to kill these two bosses, meaning that you're not going to see a Shadow's Edge (much less a Shadowmourne) on your server within days of IC going live.

In the meantime we can consider weapons like Quel'Delar (a quest reward) and the CItadel Enforcer's Claymore (from 10 man IC) as examples of less compelling itemization. For a fury warrior the fact that they're swords isn't an issue, but for arms it's still an issue. Furthermore, they're just not as well itemized in general. They're only iLevel 251, of course, so it's not really fair to compare them to TotGC 25 drops like Decimation or the Dual-Blade Butcher. (The Butcher/Justicebringer from TotGC are itemized pretty solidly for a warrior.) However, Icecrown/patch 3.3 still keeping mixing it up in itemization terms with drops like Bryntroll, which just leaves me scratching my head. Honestly, I can't imagine switching out my TotGC 2h for Bryntroll, with the 3.4 speed, lower stats, and the proc over stats like crit, ArP or hit. Heck, I'd rather have haste than that proc, But the same instance difficulty also provides us with Cryptmaker.

Yeah, I scratched my head too. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Landsoul getting a shout out, since he's worked so tirelessly on DPS spreadsheets for us.

We talked last week about how tanking itemization and encounter design pushed tanks towards stacking avoidance stats like dodge. With DPS itemization, however, we see instead a series of gearing choices made entirely with 'the best of a bad situation' options in mind. This is by design: we've been told repeatedly, in fact, that gear is often itemized without the 'absolute best' stats on it (and there's debate on how meaningful that level of min-max thinking is) so as to create a metagame wherein players can't simply consult iLevel on gear and slap it on.

There's nothing actually wrong with that approach, even though we as players might prefer it otherwise. The idea that gear iLevel does not immediately equate to better personal DPS means that players have to put thought into the gear they select and wear. The issue with this approach is when players can make all the intelligent choices they want but can't implement them for one reason or another. Issues that will prevent a DPS warrior from reaching his or her maximum potential DPS are manifold and not all are within the power of the player to address. What are these issues?
  1. Encounter Design: That is to say, when a boss or encounter is so designed to either favor or penalize a warrior for the particular nature of warrior DPS play. Some encounters (Faction Champs as an example) are extremely punative to a particular warrior DPS spec due to that spec's reliance on Whirlwind as a major part of its rotation. Other fights are designed in such a way that a fury warrior using Whirlwind and Cleave can put out ridiculously high DPS numbers. Neither of these encounter types are designed optimally for judging warrior DPS.
  2. Luck of the Draw: Itemization being what it is, you are at times hampered by what drops. While crafted gear and vendors can help make up the gap to some extent, trinkets and weapons in particular are often places where you as a DPS warrior can spend months hoping for a trinket upgrade or a weapon that just won't drop. I've seen friends go insane watching the same bosses fail to drop a Death's Verdict yet again. It's not pretty. I'm not claiming this is unique to DPS warriors, merely that it's one factor that is beyond their control much as it is beyond anyone else's.
  3. Strange Itemization: I mentioned last week that before I switched over to tanking full time I noticed that I was loading up on Expertise over ArP or Crit mainly because all the gear that was dropping was just ridiculously high in the stat, and yet going back to older gear to try and balance it out left me with less attack power from strength. When you find youself using Aesir's Edge over the Sharpened Obsidian Edged Blade because one just has far more balance to its stat budget than the other, it's glaring and disjointed. I understand that you don't want iLevel to be an automatic "This is better" determination, but it should have some meaning.
  4. Class Design: This is where things like Sword Specialization vs. Axe Specialization keep cropping up. When switching from a sword to an axe or polearm increases DPS by close to 400 in Ulduar/TotC gear as an arms warrior, that's a very large discrepancy between talents. It's good that we have talents that allow us to choose what kind of weapon we like best, but the fact of the matter is it's very rare that we actually get to pick. See Luck of the Draw, above. With there being no weapons above iLevel 200 on vendors/craftable, we kind of have to take whatever we can get, so penalizing us for what we really had no control over is a poor design choice in my opinion.
We can (and I'm sure will) argue back and forth forever about class and spec as DPS. This isn't about that. What this is about is understanding when DPS is throttled not by personal decisions (such as choosing to wear the wrong gear, take the wrong talents or use a poor rotation) but by elements of itemization and design that are beyond most players control. This is one of the reasons I support stat simplification in Cataclysm: while I don't mind gear selection requiring forethought, there's already enough difficulty in assembling a gear set without adding a minigame of micro scale stat weighing to complicate issues.



Patch 3.3 is the last major patch of Wrath of the Lich King. With the new Icecrown Citadel 5-man dungeons and 10/25-man raid arriving soon, patch 3.3 will deal the final blow to Arthas. WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.3 will keep you updated with all the latest patch news.

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

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