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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Take what drops?

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Take what drops
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.

In looking over the changes to warriors in patch 5.4, we know that the patch will be going live on September 10th and, as of now, we've seen very little in way of buffs to our DPS (fury is seeing a change to Storm Bolt that might make it worth taking, arms is getting some AoE dps buffs and all warriors should see a slight bump from Deep Wounds, but nothing terribly significant) - I think it's safe to say we're not going to see anything like a buff to our main attacks at this point. Combined with some set bonuses that will favor arms over fury (the two piece, anyway) and I admit that I'm considering going arms once 5.4 rolls around. This is deeply ironic considering I just got a heroic thunderforged 1h weapon for my SMF set. I took the scimitar for three reasons I think most warrior players will appreciate.
  • It was a huge improvement over my normal 2h raid weapons.
  • It dropped and I could use it.
  • See number two.
While SMF puts out more DPS than either TG or arms as of right now (it's debatable whether or not that will continue) the two fury specs are close enough that as of right now, DPS warriors are in a strange position of being able to essentially switch between the two. It's not as easy as simply slapping on the weapons, of course - the current game is one with reforging and gem selection to consider. In order to go from TG to SMF, I have to reforge several pieces of gear as well as change my gem selection (and it is of course even harder to go arms from either TG or SMF). This is somewhat counter to the idea that you would use either TG or SMF based on whatever drops - even if you find yourself suddenly holding a much better SMF set, you can't ignore the work you'll need to get SMF ready, and you certainly can't switch between the two on a fight per fight basis.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Take what drops
To be honest I'm not entirely opposed to that. Considering that Titan's Grip and Single-Minded Fury aren't talents anymore, you could certainly argue that there needs to be something in game that gives each its own identity and there are worse things than allowing gear optimization to give some teeth to the player and her or his individual choice. Without the reforge and gem selection optimization, we'd be in a game where you couldn't try and shed hit for other stats and would simply have to accept going up or down based entirely on gear. It's hard to argue that would be an improvement for anyone, so the fact that it makes it harder for players to simply swap between the two furies seems, at best, as a feature of the individual options and at worst a hindrance caused by an overall boon to DPS players.

The 'whatever drops' mentality has long been a staple of the warrior community. When someone asks me "What spec should I use" I always respond "What gear do you have" - it's ingrained in me from the days of discussing the fury 2h slam build's merits over raiding as arms in Molten Core and BWL. (For the record, I switched between fury 2h slam and MS on a daily basis. The respec trainer loved me. I bought that dude a houseboat.) It's less accurate now than it was in the past - in the days of Burning Crusade the idea that you could use whatever you had to hand started to fade as stat weights for fury and arms diverged (arms has always been much easier to hit cap) and stats like armor pen made their presence felt. The coming of Titan's Grip actually brought some homogenization, as all DPS warriors used two handers and going from arms to fury was as simple as getting a second weapon, but Cataclysm brought us reforging, and for warriors at least reforging may be Cataclysm's biggest legacy. Simply put, it was the biggest game changer in several years.

For a class as stat dependent as we are, as shackled to our gear (go look at the DPS difference between a warrior in 502 gear and 522 gear, and then compare a warrior in 541 gear) the existence of reforging created a tectonic shift in how we approach gear. In the past you would discuss which piece of gear was better overall, then wear the gear you happened to have while waiting and hoping to get the better piece down the road. Burning Crusade introduced gemming, which gave players the ability to customize gear to some extent (based on whether or not the gear you were getting had gem sockets, of course) but reforging brought a level of player interaction with statistics heretofore unseen in WoW. For warriors, coming when it did, it completed the process that removal of armor penetration started - it made us begin stacking crit. If reforging had existed in the Wrath of the Lich King era, make no mistake - every warrior would have had 100% ArP (or more, during that time period in 5.1 when armor pen could actually create negative armor and multiply your damage to ludicrous game breaking heights) as soon as possible.

Now, all classes make use of reforging, so what I'm speaking about here is specifically how reforging interacts with warriors. The following are just a sample of issues reforging causes or reveals:
  1. Reforging allows/exacerbates stat stacking. From warriors going nuts for block back in Cataclysm to today's 'moar crit, we needs moar crit' DPS warriors, reforging puts a tool in the individual player's hands that shows exactly what stats are most valuable.
  2. Reforging is a barrier to gearing flexibility. It's hardly the only such barrier - gems and enchants also serve to keep you from switching out pieces on a fight by fight basis, but it accentuates the difficulty. Building tanking sets for different purposes becomes more complicated when they share pieces, as you have to play stat tetris with your hit/expertise tank set vs. your avoidance set. This leads to the 'which is best, X or Y' mentality - you can't feasibly have two entire sets of tanking gear that don't share any pieces, so you look for the one that's best overall. This goes for DPS sets as well - if going from arms to fury means a significant amount of reforging, you're simply far less likely to do it.
  3. Reforging makes marginal gear for the class more viable. Clearly, you always prefer the gear that has the stats you want to start with, because reforging doesn't entirely remove undesirable stats, but it does ameliorate them. Gear with haste on it, which is catnip to certain plate classes, can be made to serve our needs. Since you can't reforge to a stat that's already on a piece of gear, sometimes it's actually helpful to get a few pieces with less desirable stats so you can balance out better. This is especially true for stats like hit and expertise, that have soft caps that can be reached.
The loss of gear flexibility isn't insurmountable, either, especially with reforge mounts in the game - last night I raided as arms, got the sword, then switched to fury and slapped the gems I needed in place to go TG fury. In the end, we've definitely lost some flexibility but we've gained the ability to make far more sweeping gear choices. To my eyes, the bigger difficulty with reforging is that in many cases the optimal reforging solution is fairly arcane and complex and requires one to use an outside site or addon (and one that only looks at reforging is clearly inferior to one that includes gem selection and enchants, for that matter) leading to a situation where you almost can't use an upgrade until you've spent thousands of gold and at least a half hour of time getting all of your gear ready and optimized. This is an issue for all classes, but for warriors it diminishes the 'take what drops' mentality and emphasizes our reliance on gear.

I definitely like having reforging in the game - I always have. But I do think it has definitely altered the way we play the gearing game. Sometimes, taking what drops ends up a lot more complex than it ever was before, and that's a meta game you need to be on top of.
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, The Burning Crusade, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

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