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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: The complete patch 4.1 PTR conniption

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

Yes, we're still talking about patch 4.1 on the PTR. To be fair, Blizzard keeps making tweaks and changes, so many that it seems like we can't talk about them all. But with the rapid flurry of changes comes a need to at least try and suss out what we're looking at.

The most recent changes mean that in total, warriors probably have the most patch notes changes of any class in the game. This is somewhat baffling considering how many times we've been told over the past weeks that warrior DPS and tanking were right about where they should be. It seems astonishing to me that a class that is performing in the zone it should receive so many iterative changes in one patch. But let's take a look at the complete (as of March 3, anyway) notes for warriors first, before we get into discussing what these changes tell us about the class as a whole.


There's a lot of ground to cover, as all three specs have seen significant changes. Let's take a look at the complete notes for warriors.


Patch 4.1 Public Test Realm Notes - March 3
Warriors

  • Charge and Intercept no longer have diminishing returns on their stun effects.
  • Colossus Smash now ignores 70% of an opponent's armor, down from 100%.
  • Heroic Throw is now available from trainers at level 20.
  • Inner Rage is now available at level 56.
  • Intercept now has a 1.5-second stun, down from 3 seconds.
  • Overpower damage has been increased to 140% weapon damage, up from 125%.
  • Pummel is now usable in all stances.
  • Rallying Cry (new ability) is available from trainers at level 83. It temporarily grants the warrior and all party or raid members within 30 yards 20% of maximum health for 10 seconds. After the effect expires, the health is lost. It has no cost, no stance requirements, and is not on the global cooldown. It has a 3-minute cooldown, but also shares a cooldown with Last Stand.
  • Shield Bash has been removed from the game.
  • Spell Reflection cooldown has been increased to 25 seconds, up from 10.
  • Whirlwind now has its cooldown reduced by 6 seconds when it deals damage to 4 or more targets. The Whirlwind effect caused by Bladestorm remains unchanged.
Talent Specializations

Arms
  • Improved Hamstring now reduces the global cooldown on Hamstring by 0.5/1 seconds in addition to its current effects.
  • Improved Slam increases Slam damage by 20/40%, up from 10/20%.
  • Juggernaut no longer adds 2 seconds to the Charge stun, but instead lowers the cooldown of Charge by 2 seconds (to 13 seconds total without the glyph).
  • Lambs to the Slaughter now causes Mortal Strike to refresh Rend in addition to its current effects.
  • Mortal Strike damage has been increased to 175% weapon damage, up from 150%.
  • Strikes of Opportunity damage has been increased by 10% to keep stat parity with other strike changes.
Fury
  • Precision (passive) now increase auto-attack damage by 40%, in addition to the 3% hit it offers currently.
  • Raging Blow damage has been increased back to 120% weapon damage, up from 100%.
  • Unshackled Fury now only grants 2 base points of mastery, down from 8.
Protection

  • Shield Mastery no longer affects the cooldown of Spell Reflection, however, it now allows Shield Block to proc a second aura that reduces magic damage by 7/14/20% for 6 seconds.
  • Gag Order now only affects Heroic Throw.
Glyphs
  • Glyph of Spell Reflection reduces the cooldown of Spell Reflection by 5 seconds, up from 1 second.



That is a significant allotment of change for a class that is supposedly performing to par.

So what does all this mean?

For starters, you can see that in just one week, the arms and protection changes have been fairly consistent, at least, while fury has been all over the place. Last week's announcement of Flurry seeing a 50% buff is now completely gone from the patch notes, instead replaced by Precision adding 40% damage to auto-attacks in addition to its bonus hit. Frankly, I had thought the two together were enough to balance the ludicrously savage mauling our mastery took, but now I see that in fact such is not the case. The Precision buff by itself is not going to make up for all the damage you're going to lose, fury warriors. Not even by half.

Shield Mastery
also took a hit, as the bonus magic damage reduction dropped from 25% to 20% in the space of two days. It's still a buff to the ability and probably an even trade for the increased duration on Spell Reflection, but it does nothing at all to address the loss of SR as a threat move on caster mobs, and already it's been whittled down in terms of its strength. I really like the concept behind the new Shield Mastery; I just don't want to see it get pecked apart.

Many of these changes are PvP-inspired, as I (and many others) pointed out two days ago. The change to Gag Order is motivated by prot silences in PvP, as is the increased cooldown on Spell Reflection. Meanwhile, the arms changes seem motivated both to make arms more viable in PvP while simultaneously cutting down on its stun potential in PvP but letting it resist kiting and keep targets in range for focusing attacks. The ability to refresh rend via Lambs To the Slaughter is in my eyes primarily a PvE change, but it'll work for PvP as well, since in either situation you're using Mortal Strike. With both Improved Hamstring and Juggernaut redesigned, the intention to allow arms to retain its mobility and beef up its snared in exchange for losing stun ability seems clear enough.

What interests me most, though, are the fury changes, which absoluetly seem aimed at reducing the spec's current PvP viability without completely gutting its PvE damage. (I'm telling you now, if you're a fury warrior, you will lose DPS as soon as patch 4.1 drops, and you will have to reforge and regem to get a portion of it back.)

Fury and the art of annihilation

The fury changes interest me due to their strange iteration process. Frankly, due to what several other warriors have told me and my own experience recently, mastery for fury is very good in PvP. Specifically, it's very good to stack a load of mastery, hit either Death Wish or Berserker Rage as soon as you're in range of a target, and Raging Blow his bloody face off with massive Raging Blow hits boosted with raw mastery. Since hit isn't as valuable in PvP (your miss chance against a player of equal level is lower), you can pretty easily cap it, and a high-mastery Raging Blow hit can easily rock someone's face. Fury is basically capable of some rather astonishing burst right now. (Just ask the warlock I globaled in Tol Barad tonight.) With the addition of Colossus Smash to the mix, fury in PvP basically ignores the entirety of your target's armor for 6 horrible (for them) seconds while you're slamming a Raging Blow > Heroic Strike > Bloodthirst combo off onto their defenseless, effectively naked hide.

Now, this doesn't happen constantly. Fury isn't godly in PvP by any stretch. But it can really ruin someone's day to be Intercepted and then, while standing there stunned, have all of their armor ripped off, followed by that aforementioned high-mastery Raging Blow.

Frankly, I'm not surprised it's being triple-nerfed. Reducing Intercept's stun duration, mastery for fury and the Colossus Smash armor penetration ability will all reduce the ludicrous amount of burst fury can put out when properly geared. No more 112% extra damage RBs. It's also clear that the increase to Raging Blow's base damage and addition of extra damage from Precision are aimed at compensating not for the loss of Colossus Smash's armor pen (as was originally stated) but rather for the really intense reduction to our base mastery level. (Now, if the Flurry change is in fact not intended to have been rolled back, then we'll probably be all right in PvE.)

The only fury change I don't see as either stemming from or compensating for PvP is the Whirlwind change, which is just going to make us even more inflated on trash. I already top the meters on trash, guys. I don't need Whirlwind every 4 seconds to do that. I guess it will make people love me on Conclave.

What it really comes down to this: At this time, I believe both the fury and protection changes are aimed at PvP, and a case can be made for some of the arms changes being PvP-related as well -- not their damage increases, which were needed to help make them more even with fury in PvE (although with the mastery nerf, they frankly may make arms the powerhouse of the two).

The sky will never fall

I titled this post The complete patch 4.1 conniption because frankly, I'm not happy at all with it. And it's not that I believe the sky is falling and that warriors will stop being viable tanks or DPS or be unable to PvP.

Let's look at the facts:
  • This game has been out for over six years.
  • Blizzard has yet to stop us from tanking, from DPSing, or from PvPing.
  • Blizzard has changed the class countless times for PvP or PvE reasons.
  • We're still here.
No, I don't think these changes mean the sky is falling. I don't think they'll cripple us. In some cases (like the change to Shield Mastery), I'm actually pretty damn excited for them. I do, however, find the breadth and width of the changes and the ease with which one can find PvP-related reasons for them to be disturbing. 4.1 is shaping up to be a really rather significant, extensive, even formative patch for the warrior class, with changes that could alter which spec has the highest output for PvE and the most sustainable power in PvP. To be clear, what I'm not happy with in this patch is how it feels somewhat rushed and as if things are being thrown out at us, then changed in a matter of hours before they can see any real solid testing. Between 4.0.6 and the 4.1 PTR, we've seen Raging Blow buffed, nerfed, buffed, nerfed, and now buffed again.

Hopefully, the pace of changes will slow down long enough to really give them a good shakedown in the next couple of weeks. Right now, I'm hoping to do some in-depth talk about tanking next week.

At the center of the dury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.

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

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