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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Rage in the 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.

Because we already had a lot of stuff to discuss this week, let's look back at the Ghostcrawler forum post thread before we get rolling. A lot of the changes Dr. Street mentioned have gone live in the most recent beta build. I ran around and tested out the protection and fury changes while exploring Towlong Steppes, did some grouping, and in general played around to see what the average player experience would feel like. I haven't gotten a chance to play with the Glyph of Unending Rage yet, but I am definitely interested in doing so.

Frankly, right now, protection feels much beefier than fury. It seems like it hits much harder and takes so little damage that you can essentially never stop for food or bandages and are never in danger from quest mobs, whereas several times as fury I went below half health and into sub-25% territory. Instancing is still taking some getting used to. Right now, I think Shield Barrier is coming out ahead in terms of the mitigation abilities you'll want to rely on.

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The thing about Shield Barrier right now is, you can use it with 20 rage or more, and it only gets better the more rage you have. So you can throw a quick Shield Barrier up as soon as you hit 20 rage or wait and hold onto rage until you're nearly full up. Frankly, I can't imagine ever hitting Heroic Strike as a protection warrior. If you have rage to bleed off, you're going to hit Shield Barrier, unless you just can't wait for that 1.5-second cooldown to bleed off some rage, in which case you'll probably just hit Shield Block.

Shield Barrier can get pretty hefty, too.
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That's at about 40 rage, in gear ranging from heroic Dragon Soul to quest rewards that range between ilevel 429 to 450. My health in that gear is about 259k, which means it's close to 15% of my health pool as a damage absorb that I can put up pretty regularly. (I would estimate that I have enough rage for a 40 rage Shield Barrier every 6 seconds.) Shield Barrier is very strong right now. And since Vengeance stacks just fine when you have an absorb up, this means that Shield Barrier prevents you from taking around 15% of your health as damage while allowing you to stack up Vengeance as if you did take that damage.

This plays out as you hitting like a truck, while the mobs hitting you barely even register. It's incredibly nice for going out into the world and getting quests done, especially in zones where it's difficult to drop combat due to high mob spawn rates.

Blizzard took the rage gain off of Unwavering Sentinel already, but frankly, I don't think prot needs it. With Shield Slam giving 15 rage, Revenge giving 10 rage (although Revenge now only procs off of dodges and parries, not blocks), and Sword and Board now working off of Devastate, rage doesn't seem to be bad at all. The Revenge change means you can't force a Revenge with Shield Block anymore, which is the other reason I think Shield Barrier is going to overshadow Shield Block. I'm also worried that combined with the two-roll system, mastery and block just got even worse now that block doesn't proc Revenge. And I worry that the new Second Wind is too weak to be worth taking. Generally speaking, if you're below 35% health, a 3% per second heal pales compared to the 20% total you can get every minute with Enraged Regeneration.

As far as threat, I'm not seeing any real issues in that department. Thunder Clap and Shield Slam both hit like tanks driven by irate mother bears whose cubs you have harassed. The combination of Devastate, Revenge and Shield Slam are plenty of single-target threat, and Thunder Clap, Cleave and Revenge are strong AoE threat. And any one of the level 60 talents will serve you as a boost to your AoE damage, depending on if you want one you can hit every 20 seconds, minute, or minute and a half. I tanked Stormstout Brewery with Bladestorm in my rotation, and it worked fine.

So far, I'm pretty happy with protection. Fury, on the other hand, not so much.
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Frankly, it's not really fury's damage that concerns me right now. Does it feel low? Yes, and we're far enough into the beta that I think it's worth saying so. When I feel like I do just as much if not more damage as protection, that's an issue -- especially when my protection spec still has items from normal DS in it and my fury set is using two 429 weapons with Elemental Force enchants. I don't just switch to prot to kill while taking less damage; I do it to kill faster.

As some of you have argued, part of the problem is the loss of critical strike with the change back to Battle Shout as an attack power buff and the loss of Rampage. Of the two changes, the loss of rampage is far more critical. My fury kit, as I've put in upgrades ranging up to ilevel 450, has shed crit like an excited person throwing pants over a bush before going skinnydipping, and it's really hurting the chance to enter an enrage. Without an enrage, our rage generation with the new Bloodthirst is pretty weak, and we can't use Raging Blow.

The new Bloodthirst is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's good that we can use it more often, but the rage it generates was cut in half, while the cooldown was cut by a quarter. That means we're generating less rage overall, and even the specialization's passive chance to proc a crit doesn't make up for the loss of Rampage. This is not to say that rage is terribly hard to acquire, but droughts and dry spells are a lot more common with fury. Even the positive change to Colossus Smash doesn't really ameliorate these droughts, although it is welcome to have rage-free Colossus Smash when you find yourself waiting for an enrage to give you good rage generation back.
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I do think Blizzard's getting closer to a workable rage design for these two specs. Protection in particular is right on the cusp of being perfect. Fury I just think needs a better iteration of that Bloodthirst passive. Right now, I'm dropping Skull Banner on cooldown, but that just increases my critical damage, not my critical strike chance. I'm also hitting Recklessness on cooldown, but that's a long cooldown to use, and when you're not even using it for damage so much as just to try and even out enrages, it feels anemic.

I guess that's fury in a nutshell right now. The framework of the spec is in place, but that screaming barbarian looks like he needs to take some iron supplements and maybe eat something. He's kind of wan. When I get enraged, it feels awesome, but the time between enrages takes up more time than I think is good for the spec.

By next week, I hope to get some more time on as arms, unless Blizzard goes and changes everything around again. It's a beta, they do that. Truth be told, it's half the fun.

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

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