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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Exploring the PTR

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors just wanted to point out that the Headless Horseman dropped my beautiful hat last night. This doesn't have a lot to do with today's column, which is about warriors in 2.3 and beyond. Matthew Rossi is actually dancing with glee, which makes it damn hard to type.

Before we get rolling I wanted to link to this site. He doesn't always have complimentary things to say but I find the candor refreshing, and it's nice to see this post. Yes, a paladin/warrior team does well in the arenas. No, it's not the end of the freaking world. Quite honestly, anything that gets paladins and warriors to cooperate is a good thing in my opinion. There are some good posts back in the archive there on PvP builds, various spec issues, patch notes and so on. And this post about Black Morass and Shattered Halls mirrors my own views exactly. If you're interested in warriors, especially arms warriors, you should go give it a look see.

Now, to discuss the warrior. Specifically, the future of the warrior in 2.3, as I managed to port my horde warrior over to test this week and played around with specs as much as my limited gold allowed (getting an initial free respec helped). Things to tell you up front: a 41/5/15 arms/fury/prot build can tank heroics with average tanking gear now. I'm talking Latro's Shifting Sword as a tanking weapon average. I did heroic Mana Tombs and heroic Sethekk on test with minimal issue (the warlock pulled aggro a couple of times, nothing earth shattering, I got it back) and so far as I could tell without being able to use a threat meter because I forgot to install one, Mortal Strike is getting the threat bonus they promised from Tactical Mastery.

So it seems to me that, if things continue as I've experienced them, we may be looking at the return of the Arms warrior as the default, cookie cutter spec. And to be honest, I don't know if I like that idea.

I've argued before that protection spec needs some work, that one of the reasons that warrior tanks are relatively hard to find (for PuG's, that is, you'll find plenty of protection spec warriors doing raids and guild runs) is because not many players are willing to reduce their effectiveness in every other aspect of the game from PvP to soloing/grinding/daily questing in order to tank for PuG's that are like a roulette wheel. Will this be that awesome PuG where we tear through Blood Furnace with ease and everyone does exactly what they should, or will it be the one where the warrior forgot to bring his shield and the warlock can't remember what button he bound Soulshatter to and keeps confusing it for Seed of Corruption? After a while, it can get frustrating. It's clear that Blizzard understands that there's an issue and is trying to address it with the new Tactical Mastery changes.

In general, I am in support of this change. I like the idea of being able to go heavy arms or fury and still tank an instance when my guild needs me. If my experiences on the PTR bear up, that will be possible. (I'll be discussing how fury plays out in my next column... what I got to see of Zul'Aman suggests that fury DPS is not suffering much for having lost Death Wish) But I do worry about cookie cutter syndrome, and I worry more that protection didn't really get enough of a bump in the opposite direction. We're making arms and fury viable tanks again, and that's a good thing, but have we gone far enough to make protection viable outside of tanking?

2.3 seems aimed at increasing the viability of what could be called 'offspecs' like the Enhancement tree for Shamans and the Retribution tree for Paladins. And it could be seen as an attempt to increase the raid viability of arms and fury warriors to make them more viable tanks as well as giving fury more passive threat reduction. But I'm not convinced that the changes to protection will do much to make protection more viable outside of raid tanking. In fact, why would you spec protection if you're not a raid tank, when arms or fury will be able to tank even a heroic and can output significantly more DPS for PvPing or what have you? With the advent of daily PvP quests, there's going to be even more incentive for warriors to adopt a spec that can provide them with utility across the board instead of speccing deep into a tree that masters the most demanding aspects of tanking when not many warriors need that level of depth to tank.

To be fair, this could be needless alarmist talk on my part. I've been known to see the worst case scenario in any situation. I know I expected my fury spec to take a significant dip in DPS with the loss of Death Wish and didn't really think Sweeping Strikes would be that useful, but so far I've found the SS/Whirlwind combo to be breathtakingly effective in those situations that call for it. If you ever get in a crowd of alliance clothies and manage to pop a rampage/ss/whirlwind combination, you'll see what I'm saying. Sure, you won't kill that many, but you'll hurt a whole lot of them. It's probably that most warriors will stick to what they like doing most, be it PvP, PvE DPS or tanking instead of trying to find a magic bullet spec that will do all things. It's clear that even after the patch, there is no disputing the fact that a properly geared protection warrior will win the mitigation sweepstakes hands down and be the kings of warrior tanking, easier to heal, best threat generation.
I'm interested in hearing from other warriors, both those who have managed to test things out (especially hard number crunching) on the PTR, and warriors who are still just waiting for the changes to go live. If you could spec, say, 41/5/15 or 5/42/14 and tank heroics effectively, would you consider going deep protection a waste? Or does the change to Devastate incorporating the sunder effect into the ability and the idea of losing Shield Slam mean you'd never leave prot? What are your plans for the patch, and do you think you'll be tanking more or less?

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