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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Buffs and debuffs in Mists of Pandaria

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.

Last week, we talked about incoming statistics changes. This week, we're going to talk about the details to changes in buffs and debuffs and which classes can provide them. This will of course center around the warrior class and which buffs and debuffs we'll specifically bring to the table. We're also going to hopefully get more into the concept of why buffs and debuffs matter.

When World of Warcraft debuted, warriors tanked primarily by their debuffs. Sunder Armor, Demoralizing Shout and Thunder Clap were considered essential for progression tanking. As time has progressed, debuffing mobs and bosses has diversified so that many DPS specs have access to these debuffs. Meanwhile, buffs grew in importance to the point that warriors (DPS or tank) also gained access to a few of those. As the game evolved from The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King and now Cataclysm, buffs and debuffs were consolidated so that various classes offered access to them to prevent any class from having a monopoly on them. Now, with Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, we're seeing more of this evolutionary process.

What does this mean for warriors? Let's talk about that.

Warrior buffs and debuffs

First off, let's cover the buffs and debuffs warriors will be offering. Warriors will offer the current stamina buff that Commanding Shout offers, and rather than the strength and agility it currently does, Battle Shout will offer Attack Power as it did previously. For debuffs, warriors will offer the reduced armor debuff with Sunder Armor, a 4% increase to physical damage debuff (arms and fury warriors only), a -10% reduction in damage caused (what Demo Shout does now; it will be applied by Thunder Clap in Mists), and the -25% healing debuff of Mortal Strike (both arms and fury as well).

This is a fair amount of utility in terms of buffing and especially debuffing. Warriors will give two out of eight buffs but four out of six debuffs. This is interesting because, as a design element, it implies that the warrior class focus is less on making its allies perform better and more on making enemies perform worse. This fits with the origin of the class -- a heavy focus on debuffs as tanking elements used to both keep aggro and mitigate damage.


Mists of Pandaria Buff and Debuff Design
  • The list only includes what we consider "traditional" buffs, such as Prayer of Fortitude. It doesn't include utility like being great at snaring, battle rez, knock backs, high DPS while moving, and other mechanics. Those ultimately all factor into a raid or Battleground comp as well.
  • The matrix is a little more complex than it appears. A paladin, for example, can only offer one Blessing at a time, while a warrior can only do one shout at a time. You can't assume one character can cover every buff or debuff listed below at the same time.

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What groups need

This is probably as it should be for a number of reasons. Buffs and debuffs by themselves are often points of contention for groups that seek to absolutely maximize their group composition. This means buffs and debuffs have to be considered by the designers on their own merits. If you tried to work in a matrix that counted buffs, debuffs, and then CC, snaring, knockbacks, Heroism/Bloodlust and Time Warp, things start getting intense. You need to keep all those factors in consideration, but you can't really muddy up the buff/debuff waters with them. From a warrior perspective, we're finally getting one of those kinds of abilities in War Banner, so throwing it into the discussion as a buff when it's more accurately modeled as a active raid cooldown would just confuse the issue.

The two buffs warriors offer are very straightforward. We can offer stamina, which is useful for keeping a group alive, but it's very likely going to be an ability to compensate for the lack of a priest due to the superior duration of their buff. That's fine, as in order to offer that Commanding Shout buff, we're not going to be able to apply Battle Shout. This is also why I'm OK with warriors only offering two active buffs, because it means that you're not going to see warriors getting stacked for the purpose of a plethora of shouts. It may seem odd that I'm arguing against warrior stacking, but in fact I'm not. I just don't want warriors reduced to buff-bots, brought along not for the roles they can fill but only to yell encouragingly at their raid or party like heavily armored cheerleaders.

When going over the debuffs, it's interesting to note that in Mists protection warriors will only have two, Weakened Armor and Damage Reduction (Sunder/Devastate and Thunder Clap). DPS warriors have both of those and a flat 4% extra physical damage taken (physical vulnerability), as well as the -25% healing debuff currently provided by Mortal Strike and Furious Attacks. With the attack speed reduction removed from Thunder Clap and the current Demoralizing Shout put in its place, the debuffing role is more evidently in the hands of DPS warriors. (It should be noted that while arms is likely to use Thunder Clap, thanks to Blood and Thunder's being baseline for arms, fury will most likely not use it. Arms warriors will provide the most overall debuff utility of the three specs.) What we end up with is a system that's slightly less complex for warriors than the current one.

A focus on Harming enemies

It's certainly not a major paradigm shift for us, but it does cement the warrior as a class that actively harms enemies far more than one that provides buffs. In and of itself, that's an interesting design to contemplate. While Battle Shout and Thunder Clap are changing in terms of their design, their use will not likely change much, if at all. It's that lack of significant alteration for the class that suggests warriors are considered to be in a good situation in terms of their pure buff/debuff utility. I would tend to agree purely on those terms, since it was specifically stated that we're not talking about utility abilities like crowd control or mobile DPS. I definitely think warriors could benefit in Mists with abilities that compensate for our loss of DPS on mobility fights, but that is outside the scope of these abilities.

The short version is that you shouldn't be alarmed if you play a warrior. Our buffs and debuffs will remain familiar to you in Mists of Pandaria. Next week, I'm hoping we get more news about those other utility abilities.

At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.

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

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