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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Once more into the Mists of Pandaria

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Once more into the 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.

And back once more, my friends, into the breach in the Great Wall of Pandaria. The Mists of Pandaria beta has seen another patch, this one with gear and everything. So what do we think of it so far?

Well, they buffed Bladestorm up to being a worthwhile DPS ability again, and that's nice, but otherwise DPS warriors didn't get a lot of change. Prot saw some changes, with a small but incremental increase in rage generation in Defensive Stance and some other adjustments aimed at keeping us in Defensive Stance. Some of these seem more like tooltip changes (and confusing ones, like the change to Charge that removes the cooldown entirely), but I do think it's worth chatting about them, especially the change to defensive stance.

I've scraped together a set of 483 PvP gear for use in BGs and running scenarios and dungeons. One of the things I'm noticing is that since your special attacks only need to be capped to 7.5% hit and since you generate your rage from Bloodthirst primarily, once you get to that 7.5% hit, you might as well stop entirely. With the hit cap so far out of your reach at level 90, while you certainly would like to cap all of your white hits, I think stacking haste is going to end up being a much more sustainable approach for rage generation, especially for fury. Arms can easily cap hit. It's strange to actually want some haste, but that does seem to be where we're going.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Once more into the Mists of Pandaria

The circle of life, or at least balance of class

OK, let's look at the most recent patch notes.
  • Bladestorm You become a whirling storm of destructive force, striking all nearby targets with your main-hand weapon for 120% weapon damage.
  • Bladestorm Off-Hand You become a whirling storm of destructive force, striking all nearby targets with your off-hand weapon for 120% weapon damage.
  • Charge Charge to an enemy, stunning it for 1 second. Generates 20 Rage.
  • Defensive Stance A tanking combat stance. Decreases damage taken by 15%. Reduces the chance you will be critically hit by melee attacks by 6%. Significantly increases threat generation. Generates 1 rage every 3 seconds while in combat.
Obviously, the change to Bladestorm is a straightforward buff, increasing the damage from 75% weapon damage to 120%. By buffing the off-hand damage as well, it becomes significantly more attractive for fury. As it had been, Dragon Roar and Shockwave just were more enticing for fury, because they could be used more often and did more overall damage. Now, if you hit a situation where there's a period of AoEing, Bladestorm becomes very nice for fury.

The Charge change just has to be a tooltip issue. Since all three of the first tier talents affect Charge in some way, I simply can't imagine doing away with the cooldown.

The Defensive Stance change is something I'd like to see all three stances incorporate in some manner. It's not a tremendously impressive change -- far from it. One rage every 3 seconds works out to 20 rage in a minute, which means for every minute you're tanking, you'll get enough rage for one Shield Barrier at its lowest absorption or one Heroic Strike. I'm not feeling the love. But it is a step in the right direction.

Being in combat should get warriors rage in exactly this manner, because as it stands the purely active rage generation model of Battle Stance ends up far, far more attractive than either Defensive or Berserker (which is why tanks were using Battle, and it's why so many tank abilities now only work in Defensive Stance). Right now, Berserker Stance is a gimmick stance that will see very little use. Having it provide reliable rage in this manner would make it more of a choice between Battle and Berserker.

Manage your rage

At any rate, it's nice to see part of Anger Management return to the beta. The easiest solution would be to simply let everyone have it, but I don't see it happening. As I said above, the more I think about how rage is generated in the beta (attacks like Mortal Strike/Bloodthirst generating the lion's share), the more I wonder if haste is going to become our go-to stat for rage. It might become the way to differentiate between arms and fury in gearing, since arms can easily hit the 7.5% needed to cap in the beta, while the much higher fury cap is definitely out of reach. Capping to 7.5%, then jugging crit, haste and mastery may become the standard.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Once more into the Mists of Pandaria

To test this out, I put on the current PvP gear available on the beta (iLevel 483, but it gets lowered to 440 in heroics) and ran heroic Scarlet Monastery. And frankly, haste really, really helps. With about 9% hit (couldn't reforge it all) and 7% haste, suddenly I was able to hit buttons again. I was doing very solid damage, solid enough to even take over as tank when the tank died on a couple of pulls without having to switch to defensive stance for aggro.

If you read the notes further, you'll note some unusual phrasing for Vigilance. I'll reproduce it below.

Vigilance Focus your protective gaze on a party or raid member, transferring 30% of damage taken to you for 12 seconds. During the duration of Vigilance, your Taunt has no cooldown and attacks against the target cause you to become Enraged for .

Obviously Vigilance still exists, and as far as I can tell Enrage itself isn't going away. Sure, it's really different in Mists, but it's not gone. So I'm just going to assume this is some weird tooltip issue (like the Charge one above) and move on. But I wanted to mention it in case it's not a tooltip issue.

Defend yourself

  • Bastion of Defense Increases your block chance by 10% and your dodge chance by 2%. Reduces the cooldown of your Shield Wall by 3 minutes.
  • Revenge Instantly counterattack an enemy and two additional enemies for 5,378 to 6,572 damage. Only usable after a successful dodge or parry. Generates 10 rage in Defensive Stance.
  • Shield Slam Slam the target with your shield, causing 0 damage. Generates 15 rage in Defensive Stance.
  • Taste for Blood Your Mortal Strike also enables the use of Overpower. In addition, Overpower hits have a 30% chance to enable the use of an additional Overpower and increase the damage of your next Heroic Strike or Cleave within 9 seconds by 50%. This effect stacks up to 10 times.
The Bastion change is a straight-up improvement and a needed one. I would argue that Bastion is still a little lackluster compared to Sanctuary, the paladin version (which also got buffed), but even so, 2% pure avoidance is 2% pure avoidance. Take what you can get. The Revenge and Shield Slam changes are part of the move to ensure warriors tank in Defensive Stance instead of switching to Battle for increased rage generation.

The Taste for Blood change makes me wonder if Slam was hitting too hard or if they realize that with rage the way it is that hitting HS/Cleave is effectively dead and are trying to find ways to make us want to use them. Not that it will matter if you do want to or not -- you won't be for at least the first tier of content. Well, you could hit Deadly Calm after a Taste for Blood proc.

Tier sets, too

We also now know the stats and set bonuses for our tier 14 sets.

Tank: Plate of Resounding Rings
  • Two-piece set bonus: Reduces the cooldown of your Last Stand ability by 30 seconds.
  • Four-piece set bonus: Reduces the cost of your Shield Block ability by 10 rage.
DPS: Battleplate of Resounding Rings
  • Two-piece set bonus: Increases the damage done by your Mortal Strike ability by 25% and increases the damage done by your Bloodthirst ability by 25%.
  • Four-piece set bonus: Reduces the cooldown of your Recklessness ability by 150 seconds.
These are solid enough set bonuses, not going for any weird procs or anything, just flat-out reducing cooldowns or costs for tank abilities and buffing damage and reducing Recklessness significantly. Reck is on a 5-minute cooldown with no talents to reduce the duration in the Beta, so that set bonus cuts the cooldown in half. Considering that it's basically the only DPS cooldown you can get save for your final talent tier, that's a fairly huge set bonus all told. I'm OK with its not being terribly interesting, in that case.

So we're definitely moving closer to release. How much closer? As I have pointed out in the past, I am not psychic, but I'd not be surprised by a late August date at this point. Rage is starting to feel a lot better, now that I'm getting the idea that we're finally going to want haste after two years of saying we would.

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

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