So we're about 11 days away from patch 5.4 as I type these words. Looks to me like it's time to round up what we'll be getting and what we won't be getting. These are the notes (they're updated to August 27th) and so it is safe to say that there will be no further damage balancing. They are as we can expect them to go live.
I will go on record now in these opening paragraphs and say that they are not sufficient, either for DPS or tanking. Warriors will see insufficient improvement. Fury will see no improvement. Arms will see some AoE DPS improvement, as will protection, but it won't be enough. Prot warriors will have even less reason to take Bladestorm than they already do, but since Bladestorm is hardly popular among prot as is, I don't expect that to really matter. The changes to Vengeance won't really hurt us as much as other tanks, since our DPS was already the last by a large margin anyway. The buff to Deep Wounds and the various other buffs to arms AoE means that, come 5.4, arms may just be the best raid spec (at least initially) overall. But it will still be middle of the road at best.
But all the trepidation in the world won't change the fact that we're not getting the buffs we need to remain competitive, or become so in the case of protection warriors. So instead, let's look at what we are getting. What are the class changes we can expect?
Dem changes, dem changes, dem general changes
Starting with changes the whole class will experience, we have the change to the stance-switching cooldown, which is down to 1.5 seconds from 3 seconds. As someone who has spent a lot of time switching to Berserker Stance for hardmode raid content, I have to say this is a positive change, if relatively unimportant to most players. It'll be useful for people switching to Defensive when being focused in PvP, for grabbing and offtanking to prevent a wipe or let a tank get ressed, and for situations when switching to Zerk will allow you to turn loads of raid damage into rage. It's a good change, just not a very significant one.
Similarly, the change to Blood and Thunder that increases Thunder Clap damage by 50% makes arms and protection warriors deal more damage (and jacks up protection's AoE threat) but it won't be a terribly big DPS boost for either, even with the Deep Wounds change (since B&T causes TC to apply Deep Wounds) - in essence, you'll do more damage (and threat for prot) with the initial TC, which will then tick for more damage (and threat for prot) with Deep Wounds. It's solid, but it'll work out to be maybe a 5 or 6% DPS boost in total.
Enrage proccing off of Shield Slam and Devastate means that protection warriors will see an increased rage generation (especially when combined with other changes) and that's nice for survival, and they'll also deal more damage and thus, more threat. Despite being listed as a general change, this is pure protection. Hamstring no longer on the global cooldown and Intervene breaking snares and roots are both PvP changes meant to allow warriors to increase pressure while breaking kites when protecting their teammates. Shattering Throw not costing rage makes it less terrible to use pre-opening of a fight, but its cast time still makes it cost you DPS - it's just not a double hit of cast time and lost rage. Both Shield Wall and Spell Reflection not requiring shields means it is one less macro and a touch more survival for DPS warriors - prot warriors are still going to tank with shields, it just means those abilities are usable by all.
Almost all of these changes are arms changes - fury gets the benefit of the Deep Wounds change, but it's clearly aimed at Blood and Thunder and arms/prot AoE. Fury will also see Storm Bolt become better with the addition of an offhand attack, although it's hard to say if it will replace Bloodbath at this point.
Arms sees Seasoned Soldier discounting Thunder Clap's rage cost by 10, which means that using it to spread Deep Wounds on AoE pulls will not only be more damage, but cost less rage. Adding the buff to Sweeping Strikes (75% damage on additional attacks, up from 50% currently) and the change to Bladestorm for arms (which we'll cover when we get to talents) and we're looking at a decent increase in overall AoE capacity. Finally, Slam costs 25% more rage, and does 25% more damage but the significant changes for arms warriors are the 35% damage to adjacent targets when Sweeping Strikes is active and the extra 10% damage when Colossus Smash is active. This means arms is going to want to try and pool rage to hit Slam repeatedly during the Colossus Smash debuff window. Fury will now also get Titan's Grip with polearms, a minor but welcome change.
Tankity tank tank
So what about protection specific changes? We have the change to Revenge (Revenge will now generate 20 rage, up from 15) which will work alongside the increase to Enrage to try and address how bad protection's rage issues can be. It might be possible for protection to actually spend some rage on offense once in a while. With Ultimatum now proccing from Shield Slam crits and making the next HS or Cleave a guaranteed critical hit in addition to it being free, we could see HS and Cleave actually getting some more use. And of course, the introduction of Riposte aims at giving warrior tanks some more critical strike chance (and thus, a better chance to enrage off of Shield Slam and Devastate) from their dodge and parry. Essentially, a Shield Slam crit (proccing enrage and thus adding 10 rage and 10% physical damage) will almost invariably be followed by an HS or Cleave critical hit for no rage, and that critical hit will do 10% more damage than a normal crit would have.
I still wonder if we're going to see prot warriors picking up some crit gear - getting that 10 rage per Shield Slam/Devastate could be a worthwhile survival stragegy, since it will mean you can put more rage into Shield Block and Shield Barrier - your offensive moves will be free thanks to Ultimatum anyway. I'm leery of a third warrior spec becoming so crit dependent, but it does work with our general penchant for crit this expansion, and it means we will have an off stat the way DK's and pallies use haste.
Finally, there's the Vengeance changes. Honestly, I don't see them hurting prot warriors very much. Our DPS was already crap, it just means other tanks won't get so far ahead of us. The change to taunt adding 200% threat generation for three seconds after a taunt should help with tank swaps. I forsee macroing Recklessness and Taunt for my prot setup, so that my next Shield Slam after a taunt will crit, proc Enrage and give me a free HS.
Let's Talk Talents
The first talent change of note is Bladestorm - it's dropping to a one minute cooldown, making it a lot easier to use alongside Bloodbath in situations with AoE waves (like Tortos or Lei Shen) and arms is seeing a damage buff to 180% weapon damage while protection actually sees a damage nerf to 160% (down from 240%). Bloodbath's snare and bleed effects have been separated so that in order to get rid of both, you'll have to cleanse twice (PvP change), Enraged Regeneration now heals for 10% damage (20% if used when Enraged) and Impending Victory now heals for 20% of max health, up from 15% - this is the rate it used to heal when killing a target who yielded experience or honor, now it just heals that amount baseline.
As mentioned before, Storm Bolt now has an off hand attack for fury warriors as well as a 4 second stun, up from 3 seconds. This makes it better for PvP, and for fury in general, but we'll need some more time to be certain if it's worth replacing Bloodbath or Avatar for it. (My gut tells me that it will be for Titan's Grip warriors.)
Vigilance now just flat out reduces the damage the target takes by 30% for 12 seconds, making it a nice alternative for either protection warriors who want to help save a fellow tank, or DPS warriors who don't want to blow up and die. Warbringer now roots a target for 4 seconds instead of stunning them for three, but the snare duration is unchanged. This is an attempt to give warriors viable means to reduce kiting without making them a stun crazy class.
And so, that wraps up patch 5.4 for warriors. Next week, we'll start talking loot.
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.