Okay, so let's look at what we're getting as of the most recent Patch 5.4 PTR build. What stands out?
There are actually some other changes if you log onto the PTR itself that aren't in the notes: Bladestorm is down to a 1 minute cooldown on the PTR, for instance. I like to call this the Christmas in Pandaria. In fact, if you look at these spell changes on Wowhead, you'll see that a lot of spells got buffed - Storm Bolt's damage got increased, Impending Victory's heal got doubled to 30%. So now that we've looked at the changes, what do they mean?
Well, the change to Enrage is clearly aimed at getting Protection Warriors to become enraged more often, thus increasing their damage dealt by 10% for 6 seconds. It will make hitting Devastate feel more valuable, and since it costs no rage and has no cooldown, this means warriors can lean on it when they want to get enraged. It also means warriors might consider taking crit gear with hit or expertise for their tanking sets, since the 10 rage when you enter an enrage state is able to be directly converted to Shield Block or Barrier. In essence, crit becomes active mitigation by filling up that rage bar.
Now, this isn't going to magically fix warrior DPS when tanking - it'll still probably be lower than other tanks. If it makes crit that good for prot that we start stacking it, we may see significant damage increases, but I don't expect that to happen. It is interesting that this change, while doing nothing for haste, gives warriors a DPS offstat in the same way that paladin and DK tanks use haste on their gear.
I'd still like to see some damage buffs, of course. But it's a positive step in the right direction.
The changes to Enraged Regeneration (which are in the patch notes), Impending Victory (which are not, but which are currently live on the PTR) and Vigilance all seem aimed at buffing talents that are less popular and also, potentially, helping a bit with warrior fragility. DPS warriors are current very susceptible to dying compared to other classes, and while I don't think these changes will really fix that (for one thing, neither change will let a warrior cheat the way other classes can and do and avoid things entirely) they are positive changes that also have the side effect of making these talents more competitive. I've played with Enraged Regeneration on the PTR, and popped while you're enraged it can heal a good sized chunk of damage.
The problem with the changes to these talents is that it doesn't really address why players don't choose them, except in the case of Vigilance which is now a very strong talent for a tank. (The refreshes on taunt can be a godsend.) Then again, even with taking the damage it's a strong talent for a tank, it's just better in 5.4. If you didn't like Enraged Regeneration, it was probably less about the size of the heal (although it was certainly weak) than it was about it being a button you have to press - combined with it basically being a heal and a heal over time when many other classes have abilities that just plain prevent damage or debuffs from even being applied, and I'm not sure that the status quo will change. I tend to take ER as a tank because I like having a dependable cooldown.
Shattering Throw not costing rage is nice, but considering it still has a cast time, it's still going to be annoying to use. Just go the rest of the way and remove that cast, make it an instant. The cooldown will be enough to keep it under control.
Slam being changed is clearly an attempt to prop up Arms' damage. It'll take more than that. Bladestorm with a 1 minute cooldown is lovely for AoE fights, but it won't make warriors take the talent unless they can depend on getting to AoE stuff at least once a minute. Storm Bolt is going to hit bosses/unstunnable mobs like a truck made up of smaller yet angrier trucks, but will that make you take it over Avatar or Bloodbath? Personally, getting to synch my Bloodbath and Bladestorm every single minute seems pretty compelling to me.
Finally, the purely cosmetic change I have longed for, Titan's Grip now works with polearms. It looks a little weird in action still (I assume that will get ironed out) but it's nice to finally get to use Bo-Ris in my main hand. I seriously hope that this leads to the design and itemization of more polearms for warriors (and those other strength classes we don't talk about here) - at least now there's no reason not to do it.
My take on the 5.4 changes (except for TG with polearms) is That's a good start, but more is needed. Protection warriors need more baseline damage, not just more enrages. Getting some use out of crit in the same way other warriors do is nice, but until I get a chance to really see the change to Devastate and Shield Slam proccing Enrage in action, I won't know how much more DPS warrior tanks get out of it. And while I like seeing the survival talents get buffed, I feel like they need more oomph before they'll become compelling. But I'm definitely happy with what I see so far - more warrior tank damage and more survivability are moves to address our current problems.
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.