I'm taking the week off from my Cataclysm postmortem to go back to Mists of Pandaria's beta and talk about what level 90 is like so far. So far, I definitely prefer protection. It's far better for rage generation whether tanking or soloing, and once you get used to using Shield Block and Shield Barrier actively to lower incoming damage, it feels fairly strong for tanking. I definitely wouldn't call it overpowered, but it works, it holds aggro, and you can stay alive decently against most trash and bosses. Shado-Pan Monastery on heroic seemed doable, although I'm not sure how much of that was the instance compensating for my leveling gear.
Arms works better than fury because arms ends up with more rage than fury does. Even with Bloodthirst generating 10 rage again, I spent a lot of time simply unable to do anything but hit Bloodthirst on cooldown and wait for it to come off cooldown so I could use it again. Having to get two or even three Bloodthirsts off before I could hit another ability made the spec feel absolutely neutered. Yes, I'm in a mix of leveling greens and blues, but the whole point of the rage redesign was to make rage less streaky. As it stands, fury will not be viable for someone newly 90.
Arms works better. It's not a DPS powerhouse, either (both DPS specs feel sincerely underwhelming at this point, especially compared to other classes that are tearing through mobs like wet tissue paper), and it's late enough in the beta that I believe serious work needs to be done and done soon, balancing damage. I experimented with switching into Berserker Stance to try and get more rage from damage taken, but the rage lost from melee hits made that self-defeating. In essence, I often wished I could give my character in the game the frustration I was feeling, because I was sure it would fill his rage bar instantly.
Running a dungeon as fury right now is an exercise in that frustration. I spent a lot of time waiting, which is the opposite of fun. It isn't even that I burned up too much rage inadvisedly Heroic Striking, I was simply unable to do anything. I could maybe hit one Wild Strike every once in a while if I got lucky. However, while I believe rage needs to be looked at, I must admit that I was not able to get to Orgrimmar to reforge my gear due to my hearth being set to the Jade Forest (which is closed on the beta) and the portals therein. Reforging for more hit might have helped. Arms certainly didn't feel nearly so starved for rage.
At last, level 90 talents
Having now done several scenarios and heroics as tank and with both DPS specs, I've gotten a chance to test out our three level 90 talents. For tanking, I really like both Avatar and Storm Bolt. I'm leaning toward Storm Bolt right now because its 30-second cooldown means you can use it on most pulls as well as during combat, while Avatar has a 3-minute cooldown. Frankly, considering it only increases damage by 20%, 3 minutes seems a bit steep -- OK, ridiculously steep. I'd like to see at least a minute shaved off of that.
Bloodbath, I actually liked quite a bit for both arms and fury. It's very nice lined up with an ability like Bladestorm or Dragon Roar, since it procs off of a special attack. You can pop Bloodbath, then hit your AoE ability of choice and just throw an extra 30% damage onto everyone it hits, as well as slow their movement speed. For a prot warrior, it's useful for abilities like Thunder Clap, Shockwave (which you can have as fury or arms, remember) or cleave. Honestly, if Avatar stays at a 3-minute cooldown, I could easily see myself taking Bloodbath for my DPS spec and Storm Bolt for my tank spec. The amount of damage you'll get out of your 3-minute Avatar doesn't seem compelling enough to cost you that much of a cooldown. Bloodbath sure seems to be working well even for rage-starved fury.
Right now, protection is the standout talent spec. I'm using Impending Victory and Storm Bolt when I tank, giving me two extra attacks on a 30-second cooldown in addition to Shockwave (20 seconds) or Dragon Roar (1 minute) with preference to Shockwave because it's familiar to me. Quite frankly, I feel nigh unkillable. The only time I concern myself with rage is to make sure I have enough for a Shield Block or Shield Barrier, and so far, I really love Barrier. Barrier's absorb scales with AP, and it's made doing valor dailies and other quests absolutely a delight. I prefer tanking, something warriors can actually do reasonably well, to either middling DPS spec.
One of the things I've found myself having to work to remember as a DPSer is to use Skull Banner on cooldown. It does help boost damage output to a degree, despite its very low duration. Frankly, my complaints about Avatar's cooldown are also my complaints about Skull Banner, but at least Avatar lasts 20 seconds. Skull Banner, with a 10-second duration, feels overly constrained.
In short, rage is the issue, as we all expected it would be. Protection is nearly perfect. Fury might be perfect if you could hit any of your abilities. Arms really depends on your talent choice, in my opinion. With Bladestorm and Bloodbath, arms feels like a slaughter machine.
One thing I will say is that with Charge a standard ability and talents selected independently of spec or role, warriors feel more cohesive than they ever have. Arms, fury or protection, a warrior feels like a warrior, someone who hurls him or herself into combat bodily and howls defiance at the enemy. Once the rage generation issues are settled (fury in particular needs some help here), I think it will ultimately be more fun to play a warrior.
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.