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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: What's next?

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.

I talked about BlizzCon's revelations last week - this week, I'm thinking about what they mean.

I've only tanked LFR and a couple of flex runs in patch 5.4, because I'm full-time DPS at the end of an expansion for the first time ever - I didn't manage this at the end of Burning Crusade or Wrath or Cataclysm (and frankly, prot was so good at the end of Cataclysm that I wasn't even all that upset about switching back to it) but the overall weakness of prot warriors in previous patches and the strength of other classes (and their players) means that for once, the tanks are rock solid and I don't have to worry. So I don't. Still, I keep my hand in with LFR groups (specifically late night ones) and am ready to step into flex when I am needed, and so far, I'd say that protection feels solid. It can burst fairly high, although it's still nowhere near the top of tanking DPS, and our new 2 piece tank set bonus is very solid. Overall I'm impressed with how much better it is than it was in 5.2/5.3.

Meanwhile, I still love arms. I know fury is better single target DPS, but frasnkly, while I'm getting better at lining up my attacks in the burst window I don't like fury as much as arms at the moment. Arms just feels elegant. It has solutions for the irritation of streaming adds (just hit Thunder Clap or Sweeping Strikes/Slam) and it still manages to put out solid burst damage when needed. I still switch to fury for fights like Iron Juggernaut or Malkorok, but for fights with adds (even fights like Heroic Sha of Pride, with brief moments of burst AoE) I like arms a lot.

Therefore, looking at the announcement that we're losing hit, expertise, dodge, parry and reforging, I consider the future of the warrior class and I get a little worried. Mists of Pandaria has seen warriors positively rely on reforging to make up for all the terrible haste gear Blizzard has made - haste is a decent stat for arms, but is at best tolerable for fury and absolutely terrible for protection, which gets no rage generation and very little damage from it - I'd much rather have crit on a piece of gear as prot than haste, at least crit does something for us. With reforging gone, yes, we won't have to worry about it as a source of gear optimization - but we also won't have it to make up for the terrible itemization we get because we share gear with two classes that get a lot more use out of haste than we do.

This is not an argument to keep reforging, though.

It's my hope that going forward, as they redesign itemization, that some real thought is given to making all three of the remaining secondary stats - haste, mastery and critical strike rating - a use for all three warrior specs. I'm okay with, as an example, arms liking haste more and fury liking mastery more - but going forward, with so many stats removed and an effort made to make plate be plate for all, having one spec get effectively nothing from one of these stats strikes me as a huge mistake. In the current paradigm, with there being tanking plate and DPS plate and int plate, I grouse but it's not worth really getting upset about. But in the future?

Look, I've criticized hit and expertise before. Stats that determine whether or not you hit aren't terribly interesting, and having two of them that do it in different ways, especially once we went from a one-roll to a two-roll combat system, was just silly. I'm not even really sad that they're gone, exactly. I don`t even feel the mild nostalgia for them I felt for armor penetration when they got rid of that - sure, ArP was a pain and I totally understood why it was axed, but we had some good times, me and ArP. Did some nice damage in ICC with it. But I won't miss hit or expertise, particularly.

What I'm interested in (potentially concerned by, even) is the idea of okay, so what now that comes with these sweeping changes. Right now, protection warriors gear for hit and exp, then can pursue a mastery strategy or a dodge/parry strategy (I consider dodge/parry a better strategy overall, but mastery is solid if you want smoothness of incoming damage) - notice that in 6.0, all but one of those stats will be gone. It's a huge change. With this combined with the streamlining of gear so that there's no 'tank' gear or 'dps' gear or 'int plate' we're basically in a situation where I honestly can't predict what we'll be doing. Will we just wear crit/mastery plate to tank? Riposte as a mechanic is clearly not going to be around much longer, since there won't be dodge or parry on gear for it to convert to crit. Now, we'll still dodge and parry attacks, we were told, we just won't have dodge and parry on gear so Riposte could exist in some new form. The current iteration, however, just won't work. But if we're just wearing crit/mastery gear to tank with anyway, maybe it doesn't matter.

I'm honestly surprised they didn't announce the end of Vengeance, and I still half expect it to happen. Vengeance has all sorts of strange consequences - the increased threat after hitting taunt mechanic in this patch was introduced to deal with its impact on taunt swapping, for example - and I know it's never been a solution that's perfectly addressed the problem it was created to solve, namely that tank threat doesn't scale with gear the same way DPS player's damage does. Well, with hit, expertise, dodge and parry gone, wouldn't tank threat scale just fine with gear? The potential is at least there for it to do so, since I can't really see much of a difference - we're all going to be wearing strength plate with crit, haste or mastery on it. What else is there to wear?

We know that Blizzard likes the active mitigation scheme for tanks - you hit buttons to generate resources to use to mitigate damage - and that I expect will remain unchanged. You will hit Shield Slam and Revenge to generate rage to use Shield Block and Barrier. I'm not sure if anything new will be added to that. Is anything really needed? I'd like it if our Tier 15 and Tier 16 2 piece tank set bonuses were just baked into our tanking style, but aside from that I don't expect the style to change. But with gear going to this level of homogenization, there's definitely going to be some seismic shifts in terms of how we go about doing it. In a way, that may be all for the good - people trying tanking for the first time won't need an entirely new set of gear to do it.

I'm definitely very curious about what we'll see as the expansion gets closer.
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

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