And thus ends the Cataclysm postmortem series with a look at fury. Finally, we get a breather from Mists of Pandaria news and get a chance to look back at fury over this expansion. While summing up a whole expansion is pretty difficult, it's why they let me out of the box and at the keyboard for a few thousand words before tricking me back into it with a banana and a dart. So my thoughts on fury over this expansion, in easily digestible bullet points:
- SMF fury surprised us by being very competitive, even sometimes better than Titan's Grip fury, in the first tier of raiding and the heroics that launched with it. This was before the mastery nerf, so SMF could get enough mastery to make Raging Blow worth hitting, while its Bloodsurge slams still hit like angry, angry trucks driven by swarms of bees that mistook you for a bear. Trust me, that's not fun.
- After the mastery nerf, TG fury climbed ahead, especially once Firelands launched in patch 4.2. I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that TG fury was quite firmly ahead of SMF (which never recovered) or arms in Firelands. As you all remember from literally hundreds of screenshots, I was a tauren fury warrior in Firelands, and I freaking loved it.
- Dragon Soul ended the hegemony of fury and moreover, pushed it down below just about every single melee DPS spec. There was nobody doing as poorly as fury. The combination of directly nerfing the spec's break and butter Dual Wield Specialization and indirectly nerfing Deep Wounds by fixing a long-term bug pushed fury under the water and held its head under until people just plain gave up on the spec for progression raiding.
Now, I admit it, arms absolutely ran away with AoE DPS in this expansion, especially in its final raid. Arms gets all the benefit of the buff to melee AP abilities like Blessing of Might or Abomination's Might that fury does, and it has some significant AoE tools in Blood and Thunder, Sweeping Strikes and Bladestorm. Fury just doesn't usually generate the rage needed to hit Whirlwind enough to keep up with arms. On a fight like Yor'sajh, arms is always going to pull ahead.
What I've found, however, is that as long as you can manage your rage and use the tier 13 set bonus to your advantage, fury is a surprisingly robust single-target burst spec. When you have to put maximum burn damage into a tendon on Spine, want to get a Corrupting down on Madness, or are looking to get the most out of your time on Ultraxion before having to hit the button, fury can really do it for you. Now, to some degree it's much more work to do it as fury than it is at arms, but it also feels as though fury rewards the effort more than arms does. To a degree, arms feels like it caps out on return for rage usagle at a certain point, since it has tools like Deadly Calm and abilities like Overpower, which are extremely predicable.
Fury isn't predictable. You know you'll have Bloodthirst, so you'll hit that on cooldown, but everything else from Bloodsurge Slams to Raging Blow are not nearly so reliable, and Colossus Smash is on a 20-second cooldown for fury, no resets. You end up waiting for rage to get to a point where you can pop Inner Rage and HS it away, or for Enrage to come up for you to hit Raging Blow, or for Bloodsurge to proc -- but when they do, you feel like you're getting more of a payoff for it.
Now, fury is hardly rocking anyone's socks off. In point of fact, this late into Dragon Soul, both warrior specs have settled down while specs like Enhancement and legendary-wielding rogues have continued to climb upwards. This isn't to say either is bad, just that we ended up in a place where arms has to hold back a lot of the time (heroic Spine, for instance, where there are all those delicious bloods, and you can't AoE them), while fury, for its part, only seems to get enough rage to really use its rotation properly when the raid is being hit with constant damage.
The mutilated corpse of mastery and rage generation woes
Now, if you're an SMF fan, I'm sadly not talking about you. Even with two Hands of Morchok or Souldrinkers equipped, SMF just doesn't seem to catch up, in my experience. I'm hopeful for better balance in Mists, but in Cataclysm, SMF went from a very competitive DPS spec to one that just doesn't do the job. I primarily use SMF for soloing old content with a pair of Souldrinkers and a fury spec with Blood Craze and glyphed Bloody Healing.
Fury's two main problems were involved in its rise and its fall. Mastery did not work as a dial to be turned to balance the spec. I'll admit that mastery was far too good for fury before patch 4.1, but the nerfing that followed made mastery the dump stat for the spec, even worse than haste. There's a weird bell curve to mastery for Titan's Grip, but for SMF it's just always terrible, and once you're around 9 or 10 mastery, it's pretty awful for TG as well.
The second problem for fury is the same problem the spec has had throughout the history of fury warriors: rage generation. If fury has enough rage, it can hammer HS still use its priority rotation and if it doesn't, you spend all your time waiting for a slow auto-attack to give you some. Once again, we're at the mercy of our gear. At the end of Cataclysm, fury works because most fury warriors are at least in 384 gear, and the better that gear gets, the smoother rage generation gets.
We all know what happens after that. While fury lacks the tools to control its rage as effectively as arms, what rage it does get it can spend with crazed efficiency. I still prefer arms as a DPS spec for the ease of getting hit to cap and the convenience of abilities like Deadly Calm, plus potent AoE (my arms specs are always Blood and Thunder specs with glyphed Bladestorm). For single targets, I actually prefer to use fury again. It's my favorite spec for boss fights, so I use it for raiding and dungeons. The loss of AoE DPS is offset by the high burst and decent sustained damage.
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.