This cycle is by now so familiar to us old-timers that we have debates as to when exactly in the expansion the nerfs will come. (For the record, since we saw nerfs in pretty much every patch this expansion -- we all won the pool -- but it was an extremely hollow victory.) I've talked a lot about rage in the upcoming expansion and how I expect to see the same cycle we always have. If anything, making us so dependent on white hits and enrage procs will just exacerbate the problem.
Well, it appears that the devs are aware of the problem as well. How could they not be aware of it, really, since it's the same problem we've had for eight years now? Ghostcrawler recently commented on a thread on the Mists beta forums about warrior issues, and I want to share his comments and discuss them here.
First off, yes, it is exhausting. After eight years, I'm beyond tired of being the crappy, easily mocked class that can't keep up in early content only to get my teeth kicked in once I've gotten geared enough to be competitive. I've seen this in vanilla, in The Burning Crusade, in Wrath and now in Cataclysm, and I'm mightily sick of it.
Beyond frustration to rage
I'm sympathetic toward the design goal of keeping warriors somewhat unique in their resource system. Granted, I feel that ship sailed when druids were also give access to rage as a tanking resource, but I do understand the desire to keep warriors away from the cooldown-based design of specs like ret paladins. And I accept that it's hard to avoid the issue of scaling too well with gear while still allowing for some rage gain when gear gets better.
The problem is, with only 100 (120 glyphed on the beta) rage to work with, you quickly run into the problem of scaling past the point that the resource matters. If you allow for gear scaling with rage, you keep running into that 100 rage limit, and the meaningful amount of scaling you can actually do becomes very quickly outdated. If you don't allow for gear scaling to improve your rage generation, then warriors don't feel like they get stronger in the same way as other classes do. Since the goal is to avoid warriors' becoming a cooldown-driven class (which would be necessitated by our not having to worry about our resources the way enhancement shaman and ret paladins currently don't worry about theirs), you're effectively in a bind.
Here's the crux of the issue, however. We have been playing this class for years and waiting for rage to be balanced. We've waited through rage normalization twice. We've heard this, song and verse, over and over again, and it's long past time to just admit we don't care that it's hard to do. I sympathize that it's hard to do. That doesn't change the fact that it is long past time that Blizzard does it.
Gear scaling and rage improvement would be nice if it could work, but time has proven that it doesn't work. It may feel fun in theory; it hasn't actually felt fun in practice ever. Or more accurately, it feels amazingly fun until you drop the smashing nerf hammer on our heads, and we're as tired of that as you are. So abandon it -- abandon the concept of rage getting better with crit and mastery and haste. Reconsider the Heroic Strike design. What fun is an ability you only use when you can't use anything else and have too much of your resource?
Resources should not hamper
I'm going to argue that the biggest problem with rage in Mists of Pandaria (and thus with the warrior class as a whole in this expansion) comes from the rage design. It didn't go far enough. It should be this. Managing rage as a resource should be based around getting more of it, period. Take the rage generation away from passive stat acquisition and make it even more active, make it part of the class's abilities. Make it something you do.
Heroic Strike, the bread and butter strike of the warrior class, shouldn't be a button you avoid until periods of high rage -- it should be how you get there. I'm not asking to go back to the days of spamming HS. I played a warrior in vanilla and tanked in The Burning Crusade and Wrath -- I have the huge, gnarly cyst on my wrist to prove it -- but having two or three rage generation abilities per specialization, each with its own pros and cons, takes rage generation away from the gear scaling treadmill that causes us to stack stats for our resource gain until there's nothing to manage. If you want rage generation to matter and want us to manage our resource, then let us manage it.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Rage should not hamper you. And you should absolutely never find yourself standing there, swinging, and waiting for rage to act. Having attacks like Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike and Shield Slam generate rage helps, but each of these attacks is on a cooldown, and we keep saying we don't want warriors to be cooldown-dependent. By causing auto-attack rage to tie rage generation to hit and expertise, you're effectively doing just that.
Sure, they're not very long cooldowns, but when the average two-handed weapon speed is 3.6 seconds and even one-handers clock around 2.6, that can be a very long time to wait to see if you're going to have any rage, especially when you're leveling and dropping hit like Mr. Bean in a Jello-filled kiddie pool. The answer is not to tweak values; it's to put a tool in the hands of the players that they can use in those drought periods, something small so it doesn't overshadow the specialization strikes.
Learning from the past instead of repeating it
The rage design in Mists is so close to that goal that it makes me actively want to scream that it isn't quite there yet. I have been living with rage for eight years, and I'm as tired of the busted to overflowing to nerfed cycle as anyone. I don't want to be sitting back and hitting some rage generation button once a minute. But hitting one every 10 seconds and having to choose between which button to hit (one that generates high rage on a cooldown vs. one that generates less rage but that I can use to fill in some gaps, as just one example) wouldn't be bad at all.
Do I want to scale with gear? Absolutely I do. Gear should make me hit harder and keep me up to hit harder longer. I'm even OK with gear making for slightly better rage gen as it allows me to hit more. But as tantalizing as the idea of my crits giving me gobs of enrage rage is, I'm beyond tired of having to pay for that rage in repeated blows to the head with a chagrined "Whoops, we gave you too much rage" from the development team later.
It doesn't have to be Heroic Strike, of course. I have no idea what they're going to test internally, much less what they'll fix upon as the solution to release to the beta. It's possible they'll find just the right balance of auto-attack and enrage damage to keep crit and mastery and haste scaling more or less as they exist now. I'm not sanguine about it, but I've been burned and burned and burned before. I remember how haste was going to be good in Cataclysm for rage generation. I remember the gigantic fury mastery nerf. So I'm willing to admit I'm not unbiased on this issue. Far from it. I'm tired of it, and I want it fixed.
The same mistake has been made, and made again, and again. It's time to stop making it. Fix rage generation, and let's get on with actually playing the game.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!