So we've had the Throne of Thunder for three weeks now, and we're all progressing through it at our various paces. Some of us are working on heroic bosses, others are at particular normal mode bosses, still others are primarily exploring the raid via the LFR tool. However you're going about it, you've had a couple of weeks to start seeing the new fights.
One of the things that's struck me as a DPS player so far is how varied the individual fights are. Love them or hate them (so far I can't think of one I hate although I'll admit I don't like doing Ji-Kun when I have to do nest duty) there's a wide range of mechanics at play. As a result, although this is still a fairly preliminary statement there are a few things I feel comfortable saying at this point.
- There is no absolutely dominant DPS spec for warriors in Throne of Thunder. I'm not arguing there won't be one, because I suspect there will, and I suspect it'll be Single-Minded Fury warriors. But for right now, a TG or arms warrior can step into ToT and do pretty well, easily competitive with the other specs.
- This is because of the wide variety of encounters. Frankly, some fights (like Tortos) really reward a specific combination of talents and a spec's abilities - I personally enjoyed using arms for this fight due to the synergy of Sweeping Strikes, Blood and Thunder, Whirlwind and Bladestorm that an arms warrior can combine on the bat and turtle phases. For Jin'rokh I'd much rather be an SMF warrior, especially as gear improves.
- Each fight tests awareness in a new way. Patchwerk style fights are dead. There hasn't been one in a while, and ToT absolutely did away with any semblance of them. Even fights like Jin'rokh that involve a lot of standing in one place bashing a giant from behind involve a great deal of movement and awareness of random conditions. You absolutely cannot tunnel vision your way through these fights, especially as we move further into situations like Durumu and Primordius.
- Haste didn't really get much better. To a degree this isn't haste's fault. Critical hit is a juggernaut for DPS warriors right now. It's so good entirely because of how it works with Enrage, and it will only get better right up until the moment where warriors can get 100% crit on their Mortal Strike or Bloodthirst attacks. With the reduction in Recklessness' crit chance (supposedly tied to PvP burst, but also working to keep crit inflated in PvE) and the ability to use it more often, DPS warriors in ToT are more addicted to crit than ever. Haste just can't win against our lust for crit.
What does this all mean for us as DPS warriors? Well, if you haven't yet gotten comfortable with moving in and out of range on various mobs for various reasons, get there. Occasionally a nice raid leader will do you a favor like parking all of the warriors on Sul the Sandcrawler and letting you cleave to your heart's content (and interrupt, don't forget to interrupt) but in a lot of cases that still means you're going to have to move out of stuff on the ground from time to time. Warriors are still very vulnerable to any movement, in terms of losing resource acquisition to it. You can't generate rage if you can't hit the target, you have no chance of going into an Enrage if you can't use your big melee special because the target is ten yards away and you have to run out of Acid Rain, these are just facts you're going to have to accept.
The primary result of the haste changes was that, when a haste trinket drops, you don't immediately have to pass on it to DK's and paladins. Would you prefer a critical strike trinket? Yes, of course you would. You're like a vampire and your inviting neck victim's name is critical strike rating and that simile was terrible. Awful similes aside, however, haste rating is better than it was but haste itself doesn't do as much for us, so it's simply never going to be as good as crit. Until your every Bloodthirst and Mortal Strike is pushing you to Enrage, crit wins. Haste is now about as good as mastery, maybe a little better, but that's all they really seem to have wanted it to be. I'm a little disappointed about this. I wanted arms to become a spec where you might actually consider pushing haste for no other reason than to change up things a little, but arms as a spec is an effective raiding spec right now so I'm just grateful I can say that.
Another consequence of the fight design in ToT is that proper use of Berserker Stance can be an opportunity to display some good, tactical play and improper use of it will tank your DPS just when it should be going up. So, since I've seen a lot of questions and gotten more than a few tweets about when you should use it, I'll go into it now.
Battle Stance trumps Berserker for most of a fight, due to its greatly increased rage generation. For most of a fight, DPS warriors are expected to avoid damage and as a result, Berserker Stance just can't compete. When do you use Berserker? Simple. Berserker Stance is to be used in any situation when you have significant unavoidable raid damage. One example would be Megaera's Rampage. If you can make proper use of the rage generated in this way (that is, if you can maintain uptime on your target while sustaining the damage to yourself, so not in situations when everyone clumps together and uses a cooldown unless you can keep hitting the target even when clumped) then Berserker Stance becomes a very powerful stance. I won't lie, it takes a certain amount of practice to get used to switching in this manner, and I haven't mastered it yet myself. There have been a few times now that I've kicked myself for forgetting to switch into Zerk, or forgetting to switch out again, and you also have to keep in mind that the switch itself will cost you a GCD to make.
Always keep the following in mind when contemplating if you should use Berserker Stance.
Will you be taking sustained high damage, will you be able to convert that damage to useful rage (in other words, can you attack with it) and finally, how long will these two conditions be met? Switching to Berserker for a five second damage phase isn't worth it with the GCD, but if you're going into a final burn at 20% and the damage to the entire raid will only be increasing that entire time, Zerk is almost mandated.
As stated before, as gear increases I expect to see SMF take off. Right now, the big fights for arms appear to be Tortos and Council, with the proper setup. SMF does well on any fight, and TG seems to be lagging behind. How that will change with better gear is yet to be determined. I'm hoping to pick up a couple of 1h weapons (it's been the bane of my existence trying to get the proper gear to actually test out SMF this expansion) in LFR this week, and from there I'll let you know what happens. On the upside, strength polearm! Yay strength polearm! Yes, I know everyone says "DK tank weapon" but when something drops and it's a big upgrade, you take it and you make reforging do its job.
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.