When I talked about how I felt prot was going to develop last week, I had no idea how far I was understating it. Talents like Damage Shield, the changes to Shockwave and Devastate, and how much crit you can get on your special abilities with Critical Block, Sword and Board and Incite make prot a remarkably strong tree for soloing/grinding/leveling. With 600 block value or more (not terribly hard to get now that 2 str = 1 SBV) Damage Shield and Shield Slam can rip mobs in half. 2000 point Shield Slams are far from rare with an extra 15% crit on your slams, and with full Improved Defensive Stance you can sit in D stance and have a 100% chance to enrage on any successful block, parry or dodge, giving you the option to do more damage or to spend the enrage to heal yourself for a significant chunk of your total health.
Compared to that, Fury's capstone ability now has an additional 15% chance to miss tacked onto it, and Arms is based around a series of procs involving bleed effects and Overpower which could be very powerful for DPS, but which still requires them to either stance dance or sit in battle stance, costing them 3% crit for no other benefit than the ability to use Overpower at all. Some talents in either Arms or Fury have been changed in an interesting manner... the new Enrage has a 30% chance to increase your damage by up to 10% when you take any damage at all, it's no longer limited to you having taken a critical hit. This makes Enrage less sucktastic for PvP, but it's still a talent that increases your DPS in a situation no DPS warrior wants to be in, meaning that you're spending talent points for a damage boost that only comes when you've taken damage, which you're not supposed to be doing.
I'm not ready to freak out and cry that the sky is falling or that warriors have really been nerfed in this beta build. For one thing, as many would point out, it's just beta, nothing is written in stone. Furthermore, changes like Enrage make me think Blizzard is looking to increase the way in which conditions like an enrage can be entered, giving the Enraged Regeneration ability more ways to be useful... you'd have to admit that a fury warrior who just took damage probably wouldn't mind the ability to heal over time to some extent.
Warrior DPS is, just as warrior tanking, based on a very simple notion of hitting things. Unlike a rogue, who starts with a full Energy bar and must manage combo points to properly exploit his or her full assortment of damaging abilities, a DPSing warrior is purely about hitting and hitting more until he or she has built up enough rage to hit really, really hard. The change to Titan's Grip, therefore, means that a fury warrior who wants to be as good at hitting as he or she really can be will have to gear for as much plus hit as can be attained, because that extra 15% chance to miss is a spine-breaker for any hope you may have had to actually deal some damage. It doesn't (or isn't intended) to add to the miss chance with white hits, thankfully.
As bad as the TG change is, it's killed my desire to take the talent... as one person said, why would I take a talent where I'm required to gear to make up an additional 15% miss rate on my special attacks when I have no chance to come close to that level of hit before 25 man raids? You can't take TG as a leveling warrior now, you'd be foolish to unless you have rogue levels of hit on your gear. But fury could be fixed fairly easily by lowering the miss chance to something reasonable like 5%. Arms is a conceptually briliant tree that fails to really deliver anything of its promise in actual play as it stands, and I'm far more concerned that it's not going to get fixed before release.
I should make sure to admit that if Arms isn't in good shape by release, it won't hurt me at all. I don't PvP much, and when I DPS I usually go fury nowadays. 95% of my time I'm tanking, and prot is strong, so strong that I would have no hesitation about doing DPS in a raid in a prot spec once the pre-Wrath patch goes live. Heck, I do it now when we o I nly need one tank on the rare occasion it's not me. With 80% weapon damage on Devastate alone I'd be feeling good about prot DPS, but combine that with everything else the tree is getting and I'm frankly a little worried about my fury and arms brothers. Why would a raid take them? I can do anything they can except provide a healing debuff, and I can tank with threat like you haven't seen. On a Nexus run this afternoon alliance side Northrend (because I hadn't played my human in the beta much, just my tauren) in the gear I usually tank heroics in on live I tanked a run with a DK, a hunter and two pallies. We used no traps. We used no CC. I didn't need it. I held aggro on three or four mob pulls with ease, charging into packs, using spell reflect and thunderclap and damage shield, shockwaving when it was up. Things stuck to me like glue.
Honestly, I know there have been posts about how talents are budgeted. I am fully willing to believe that they're trying very hard to make everyone fun and well-balanced, that the final numbers pass hasn't gone live, and so on. I think they've done an amazing job on tanking specs/classes so far and I'm very happy with where prot is right now. But I don't feel like Arms has gotten anything like a cohesive look by developers. I don't feel like they really know what they wants arms to be, frankly, and this is a problem that transcends talent budgeting. Arms is in this weird limbo between being the tree focused on weapons (the various specializations) and the tree focused on weird bleed effects and procs based on them. I have no issue with the concept of talents like Wrecking Crew, Justified Killing (in fact, a parry based ability makes a lot of sense in arms, since it's supposed to be the weapon tree) or other talents that seem to work around the idea of arms as a precise, mastery of weapons oriented tree, dealing a death of a thousand cuts on enemies, weakening them, setting up other attacks to do more damage. This is all fine and dandy in concept.
The problem is with the execution. More synergy between Deep Wounds, Taste for Blood, Blood Frenzy and Trauma (which are tantalyzingly close to being an awesome set of abilities that work well off of each other, limited mostly by Overpower's limitations) would do wonderful things to move arms in the 'death by superior skill' direction that I think is the goal of the tree's redesign to date in beta. Honestly, those talents aren't bad, they're just slightly weak, at least in my opinion. Compared to Bladestorm, they're astonishing.
Bladestorm drives me insane. It's so cool in theory, and so awful when you actually use it. I know the people who do design work for Blizzard are smarter than me, I'm not going to pretend I could do better or anything. But please, please, someone either fix this talent or take it out back and shoot it, because it's broken. It's just awful, every time I spec arms I find myself taking it, trying it out a few times, then respeccing to get rid of it. It costs 25 rage, you can't use it to break fear, and the damage you do spinning around is not really that great when you consider that you just gave up the ability to generate rage for six seconds. I'm so tired of arms being defined so heavily by its 31 point talent, but it's still far and away better than Bladestorm, a talent that's 20 points more expensive to get.
In general, I applaud the idea I believe Arms is shooting for... that being a tree defined by a mastery of weapons and weapon techniques instead of the raw fury or unyiedling spiked wall approaches of the other trees. I just think it's yet to find the right way to express this and I'm hopeful they'll tighten it up for both PvE and PvP soon.
Next week, fury and how it vacillates between disappointment and excellence. Are the first tiers bloated with unnecessary talents? Is it in fact fair to say that TG was too good, but it's carrying a tree that's not good enough? Where does the talent spread seem to be headed?