So last week, I covered what it will be like to play a new warrior in Mists of Pandaria. This week, rather than my usual dissection of changes and so on, what I want to do is paint a broad picture of what the game will be like for a level 85 warrior heading to level 90. What's changed? What hasn't changed? Will the new talents and the way specializations now work make the class feel wholly different and alien? Will the new stance mechanics and rage be confusing and hard to grasp? Am I fond of rhetorical questions?
In the past, I may have oversold just how different Mists will be. That's not to say that it isn't changing quite extensively, because it is. But while a great deal is changing, warriors don't feel like a different class or anything drastic like that. Rage is still based on you hitting things, for instance. It's just that instead of being passively generated by damage you take, it's actively generated by special attacks (and you can even get the passive rage gen back, if you really miss it, by switching into Berserker Stance). The removal of Intercept and making Charge work in combat by default just streamlines what warriors were already famous for -- mobility.
As you can see by the screenshots I've used so far, one of the ways the game has changed is that it now provides you with guides to what has changed for the class and how to get the basics of each specialization's abilities. I say basics because that's exactly what these guides are -- extremely basic. They don't explain how to use Deadly Calm (an ability shared by arms and fury now), for instance. They aren't intended to replace learning how to play the class and its specializations (it doesn't make sense to call them talent specs anymore) but rather to give you a sense of how to start learning.
This isn't only useful for new players, because it catches you up with what you need to do differently and reminds you of things that are easy to forget. The what has changed pane in particular is useful for reminding yourself of these little details.
One thing to keep in mind is that hit and expertise are normalized now. You need 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise to hit a boss with special attacks and normal white attacks. (Dual wielding requires considerably more hit but still just 7.5% expertise.) The rating you need goes up as you level, of course, but the percentages stay the same; it just takes more of each to get each point. The expertise change in particular (switching to percentages the same as hit) is a very welcome change, all told. It's much easier to grasp and relate.
My well-known issues with rage generation aside, the actual mechanism of rage isn't terribly arcane in Mists of Pandaria. Battle Stance increases the rage you generate from white hits. You only generate rage from special attacks and shouts in Defensive Stance (but you're crit-immune and have high threat), and you generate rage from damage dealt and taken in Berserker Stance. While they've removed stance penalties and allow you to use all your abilities in any stance, certain tanking abilities like Vengeance only work in Defensive Stance, to keep warrior tanks from gaming the rage system.
That's because tanking is probably the most changed of the roles you'll perform. However, it's still not terribly changed. You use Shield Slam, Revenge and Devastate to build threat and generate rage. (Shield Slam and Revenge directly generate rage, and Devastate triggers Sword and Board and refreshes the cooldown on Shield Slam. You spend that rage on mitigation abilities like Shield Block and Shield Barrier. In essence, instead of blowing your rage on threat moves, you use threat moves to generate the rage you use to mitigate damage. As far as gearing is concerned, it's about the same, except that you'll end up with a lot more parry than dodge due to gaining parry from strength.
The real change to tanking is the behind-the-hood change to the combat table, but it's definitely one you'll notice.
You'll also notice that on live, my block chance is more than twice what it will be when Mists goes live. (And that's not the highest block I could get, either; I deliberately wore gear with less than my maximum mastery.) So the new tanking paradigm will definitely include an expectation that you will be taking unmodified hits. Since dodge/parry and block are on separate rolls, you'd need to completely cap combined dodge and parry to 102.4% to cover the combat table, and I just don't see that happening.
Tanking in general doesn't feel a lot different, but gearing for it is definitely going to be different. We may be headed back to the days of stacking stamina, or we may stack parry. Unlike on live, we're not only going to have a lot more parry than we do now, we're going to want a lot more. Theck's numbers indicate an almost 3-to-1 ratio of parry to dodge, which Ghostcrawler indicated was an exaggeration from where they intended it to be, so we'll have to wait and see how that shakes out. But one thing is for sure: The days of keeping dodge and parry as close as possible and stacking mastery like crazy until you hit 102.4% when dungeon- or raid-buffed are not going to be valid any longer.
As for DPS warriors, once you get into the flow of the new rage system, they're really not very different from the way they are on live. Arms is greatly simplified by not having to apply Rend, since it's now automatically applying Deep Wounds with Mortal Strike. Arms in particular is the easiest spec to simply pick up and run with. If you play arms on live, you can play arms in Mists of Pandaria. Talents work as they had the last time we discussed them, and they too are easy to pick up. I don't forsee much difficulty in understanding how they work, although picking one you want to use will take time and a lot of number crunching.
In general, the new systems coming in Mists are a significant departure, but many of them are under the hood, so to speak, and won't drastically change your playing experience. The ones that do, you'll be able to adapt to fairly quickly, and the game does its best to explain exactly what to do to learn them.
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.