Well, we know patch 4.0.1 will be upon us soon. When it comes, there will be that tendency to panic. It's understandable, as this is a huge departure for every class. We warriors are as subject to change as anyone else. But my trademark cautious optimism tells me that it won't be as bad as you might think. For starters, you'll still be a warrior and thus, the best class ever conceived (which goes without saying, really; that's why I typed it, so I didn't have to say it). Some bullet points from my experience on the beta:
- Arms warriors will be unhappy to see Mortal Strike's debuff decrease, but the rotation remains interesting with just enough complexity to reward smart play. In general, it should be viable even for raiding (yes, I said "viable for raiding").
- Fury warriors who like one-handed weapons will love Single-Minded Fury. I took it out for a long test run through Hyjal and Deepholm on my worgen last night, and it holds up. It might be slightly behind TG right now; I couldn't get Skada to capture any data, but it didn't feel like it was at all. If, like me, you love fist weapons, then it's happydance time. In general, fury is inevitably going to see lower damage due to rage normalization and the changes to Heroic Strike/Cleave/Whirlwind, but Raging Blow does a lot to make up for those changes. Numbers aside, the new enrage mechanic is pretty interesting for fury.
- Assuming the current weird threat issues on the beta are solved by the time 4.0.1 is released (keep in mind that there hasn't been a damage pass yet), then the biggest problem facing protection warriors will be that it's a ridiculously solid tree filled with so many good talents that you might not even want to spend any elsewhere. Frankly, I'm thankful Safeguard is still bad. At least that's two points I know I can spend somewhere else.
One of the reasons for my being optimistic about 4.0.1 is that Blizzard is definitely not done with the damage pass.
Furthermore, a lot of issues people are having on the beta are due to decaying combat ratings as you level. Things like dodge, parry, crit, hit, expertise, etc. all decay every time you gain a level, requiring escalating levels to gain the same amount of actual percentage. So if you have 35 percent crit at level 80, you can easily drop to 27 percent at 81, then 22 percent at 82.
This is a non-issue for us when 4.0.1 drops, because we won't be leveling up. Your ratings won't decay. So if you have gobs of avoidance now, you should still have gobs of avoidance come the patch. Your hit and expertise caps will be the same (except that a lot of us fury warriors are going to find hit rating a lot more attractive, since the bug that allowed our off-hand strikes to use the Heroic Strike miss rate will be gone). So performance in your chosen role will see some changes (if you're gemming ArP and you don't want a massive amount of crit come the patch, you may want to start looking at collecting strength gems), but the floor is not going to drop out from under you.
If anything, arms will gain a much-needed interrupt and some fun tricks; fury may see more PvP viability with the greatly improved Blood Craze; and protection warriors will be scratching their heads at an abundance of good talents.
Why 4.0.1 will be a good thing
Yes, there will be adjustments. Currently, on the PTR and in the beta, damage for warriors is low and threat for warrior tanks is inconsistent. These are real issues, important issues, and I understand and sympathize with players who feel frustrated (well, warrior players, anyway -- screw those other classes). But ultimately, that issue is one that will be solved with the damage pass. (Admittedly, it may take a few passes, and nothing is ever perfect.) What's more important is the retuning of rage and redesigning of all three trees.
With the reduction in talent points, the revision of the talent trees to 31 points and the consequential concision of various talents as well as the reduction of stats like armor penetration and defense, warriors are finally entering a world where no tanking hybrid holds a clear, mechanical, designed superiority over any other. Why is that a good thing? Because, at long last, tanks will have to be compared based on what they can actually do instead of what they once did.
Frankly, the legacy of original endgame raiding has haunted the warrior class for a long time. Our original rage design ensured that we would always pay for our ultimate endgame superiority in best-in-slot gear by being horribly weak until we got it when we were damage dealers, and that any tanking shortfalls would always be answered with, "Warriors are fine; look how many fights are designed around them." The way it was became the way it has always been, enshrined in the minds of players who couldn't see past it, a sacred cow.
Patch 4.0.1 and Cataclysm are good because they will finally kill that cow. Everyone is getting a complete redesign. Everyone is seeing changes that will affect how they tank or DPS (or heal, but we don't do that, thank the maker), and while some classes will come out ahead at first and adjustments will need to be made, we know one thing: No class will be inherently favored by encounter design or legacy talents, and that means that no complaints of tank favoritism based on old mechanics can be levied against us anymore. Similarly, if warriors still manage to top damage meters with the new rage design, then no one can complain about the rage mechanic, because it's been adjusted. At last, when we win, they'll have to suck it up and accept that they were outplayed.
At present (and it could, of course, still change), rage is generated either through attacking, being hit (at normalized rates, so a swing always generates the same amount of rage and a percentage of your total health taken in damage always generates the same rage) or using Battle or Commanding Shout. This means that you'll hopefully see less rage starvation when leveling an undergeared warrior.
A host of improvements
A lot of improvements will come into the game with 4.0.1, including a very elegant and easy-to-use system telling you exactly when one of your proc-based abilities (Sudden Death, Bloodsurge, Sword and Board) is useable. Most of us use an addon for that functionality now, but it's fully baked into the UI in 4.0.1. Also, the character pane is greatly improved, with the ability to expand and contract at will and direct calculations for how much each combat rating converts to and how much you need to hit mobs within three levels of your current level.
With the changes to how talents and abilities are learned and the removal of the ranking system, you'll never have to go back to a trainer to get the latest rank of Battle Shout or what have you. You'll only get trained when you actually learn something new, and you'll see alternation between gaining a new talent point and gaining new abilities. It's a lot smoother. From experience, the new system is a lot more seamless for a leveling warrior; it took very little time to go from 1 to 70 with it.
In the end, pretty much everything bad you can say about patch 4.0.1 for warriors is based on a PTR and beta that have not been balanced yet. When those balancing passes are done, we can then decide to panic or not. Until then, what we have is a really fascinating, provocative and frankly much more well-designed set of trees than I expected going into this. It would not surprise me if by the time 4.0.1 drops, we actually have three trees viable for both PvP and PvE. Three viable trees for both! Imagine that for a moment. Aren't you glad you rolled the right class?
Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors.