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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Practical talents in Mists of Pandaria

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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.

Before I get into this week's topic, I talked about War Banner this week (in case you missed it). If asked for my opinion of the ability, it would be good but not yet great. Each banner needs a little love -- perhaps a longer duration or more of a powerful effect -- before I'm totally sold on it. But I did enjoy playing around with it.

This week, however, I want to talk about the content we have, not the content we're going to have. The reason for that is because it will help me illustrate what I like and dislike about the current talent paradigm and how we're losing things at the same time we're gaining them with the new talent system. I am not calling out for the new scheme to be scrapped. On the whole, I am a big supporter of it. But that doesn't mean the current talent system doesn't have things to teach us. So let me begin with the following statement.

I deliberately specced fury for heroic Spine of Deathwing because I wanted to do less damage.

No, I'm not explaining that here. You want to know why? You come with me past the jump. Them there's the rules.

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As talented as you are

See, first off, I also wanted to take less damage -- or more accurately, increase my self-healing. And one of the ways to do that is by going fury and speccing and glyphing for increased self-healing. So I took three ranks in Blood Craze and put in the Glyph of Bloody Healing.

Why did I do this? I did it for Searing Plasma. As you can see, Searing Plasma is a combination DoT and debuff that not only does periodic damage, but also absorbs a massive amount of healing and prevents any heals from getting on you while it's up. But with Blood Craze and Bloody Healing, my self-healing is good enough to help whittle away a significant portion of Searing Plasma and make life marginally easier for my healers. And those marginal benefits add up in a fight tuned as absurdly tight as Spine of Deathwing. As the fight becomes more and more and more hectic, as more bloods accumulate, as you find yourselves all straining to get through, the more you can do to make it easier on your healers, the better off everyone will be.

The second reason is a little-known secret. You see, fury bursts just about as well, if not better, than arms does. It has an extra cooldown in Death Wish, which is on a shorter cooldown than Recklessness. And fury can use Recklessness more often. This means that when the Burning Tendon is exposed, I can pop my cooldowns and do as much if not more damage than I can as arms at the only part of the fight where my DPS matters.

My DPS doesn't matter on Amalgamations, because they die plenty fast for the purpose of soaking up dead bloods. And my DPS doesn't matter on bloods because I'm not assigned to touch bloods. Sure, if I were specced arms, I could use Sweeping Strikes, Blood and Thunder and Bladestorm to do ridiculous damage to the bloods -- and wipe the raid in the process. By choosing fury, I've moved to a spec that can do reasonable AoE if needed but doesn't have big AoE buttons that demand to be pushed, making me antsy. I can burst just as hard when it's needed, but I can relax and simply follow my priority otherwise without worrying about all the AoE damage I'm not doing.

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You can always be more talented

So I lied to you. I didn't spec to do less damage; I specced to stay alive to do damage when it counted. I used an unconventional raid spec that took more responsibility for my own healing, something that I would never have done back in the days of heroic ICC. In that regard, the changes to healing and talents at the dawn of Cataclysm were in fact a huge success. And despite my stated support for the new talent system, I will admit to some trepidation at the idea of getting rid of a talent system that does, in fact, work. Our current level 85 talents have far fewer traps than they did at 60, 70 or even 80. We've lost the freedom to pick bad talents, which in a way is a false sort of freedom.

In Mists, with talents redesigned to be cross the entire class rather than rooted in spec, I could take whatever talents I deemed appropriate for a fight. Believe me, there have been times during my working on heroic Dragon Soul where I've desperately wished I could spec into Shockwave as an arms or fury warrior. I don't need the AoE DPS of Bladestorm, and I don't need Dragon Roar's 1-minute cooldown. I need to be able to stun the bloods every 20 seconds, and I even offered to tank if needed because I knew how handy prot's cone stun and mobility is in this fight. Mists's talent scheme means that if there's a talent I think would be awesome for this fight (Enraged Regeneration vs. Impending Victory, say), I can take that talent no matter what my role is. That's awesome.

But at the same time, with fewer talents and consolidated abilities like we're getting, I won't be able to cobble together a spec the way I did this particular fury spec. I worry about that, when I consider the future of the class. One of the things we've lost over the years are the weird, experimental specs, the dual wielding Mortal Strike specs, the arms specs with defiance that could tank cutting-edge content. On the whole, these changes have been for the good of the game and the class. But it's important to acknowledge the loss with the gain, to admit that there was viability and fun in playing with these talents. You'll never see or hear someone say "I'm specced 8/31/2" again.

The good in the end will almost certainly outweigh the bad. After all, that dual-wielding MS build did not really work. Being able to tank progression as an arms warrior made protection pointless as a spec. I believe that the kind of flexibility we're getting, with meaningful talent choices, will expand and not diminish our options.

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, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

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