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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: What's not broke

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is our weekly foray into warriors. This week, we discuss good things about a class in World of Warcraft. I know, I was as shocked as you are, but it's apparently possible. Matthew Rossi seems to enjoy them a great deal.

I was planning to talk about Warrior DPS specs this week, but then I saw yesterday's moviewatch and started thinking about class balance. Specifically, warriors and how they balance against other classes. The issues mentioned there... static threat vs rising DPS, shout duration, better tanking gear actually hurting your threat generation....pretty much work for me as issues. It would be nice if those got fixed. There are a few others that bug me, but watching the various lists of class woes made me realize that, basically, I love my warriors.

What's so great about a warrior? Is it the thematic unity of a class that's all about the heavy armor and weapons, that doesn't use mana at all, that wades into the thick of combat and turns loose untrammeled martial expertise and inner fury? Is it the thrill of a 1k shield slam crit turning a mob back to face you? Is it managing to get that last big MS hit off on a warlock to drop him before dying yourself, knowing that you're not playing an escape class? When warriors use our fear we're doing it to buy a few more seconds to kill someone, not to run away. Warriors don't run away. We'll take the beating and come back for more. Is that what's so great about us?

Your mileage may as always vary, but for me I like the simplicity and elegance of the class focus. The true reason I don't consider warriors to be a hybrid class is that, to me, a shaman or druid exemplifies that kind of hybridization, the wide variety of options given by spec and gear. Warriors have one option, whether they be tanking in full prot with heavy tanking gear or DPSing in a combination of mail, leather and plate, or PvPing with the biggest two hander they can find. Warriors hit things. Warriors stand there and take whatever the game or even its players can dish out, then get to hit back.

It's the hitting back that most classes seem to abhor. No one minds getting to hit the warrior. Mages will gleefully PoM pyro you, rogues will pop up and stunlock, druids will root and bear on you, hunters will shoot you. None of them mind that. But nobody likes to get hit back. And it is in the fundamental design of the warrior, be it a tank or a PvP spec, that we take what is done to us, and we give it back. It's like sharing. To misquote the worst Star Trek movie, I could not help but notice my pain. Let me share it with you. Fury is a little different and to my mind currently the most 'broken' spec (I don't actually consider it broken, in fact I would say that Fury is to me the most fundamentally perfect potential spec in the game, but there's a lot that needs to happen for that perfection to show forth) but at its heart, Fury is about doing unto them before they get to do unto you.

There's something primal and beautiful, to my mind, about the way warriors work in game. We don't generally get the shiny, glowing plate... if you want that stuff, roll a paladin. We can't hide. We walk around in clanking, dirty, often demonic looking armor sets that constantly need repairs... by this point it's not hard for me to imagine my armor's patched all over the place, based on how much gold I've spent keeping it repaired. There's no fancy spells or blessings, no special connection to nature, no pets, no abasement to demons or having to hide and hope for an opening to stab someone from behind. There's you, your gear and your rage bar. You have your targets, and they're almost always hostile, you don't have to worry about keeping anyone friendly in your crosshairs. You won't be shifting forms, putting a bubble on anyone, or falling back to heal.

You'll shift stances to advantage, meaning that you'll have to learn to manage your rage bar, yes. But unlike mana, you get your rage directly from the things you're fighting. Your only concession to mana is the indirect one, in that you can only keep going so long as there is enough healing to keep you upright, keep you channeling pain into fury. It's a beautiful concept when it works. When you're standing there pushing your TPS to over twice that of the nearest offtank, much less the DPS, you can feel like a god, and that's just when tanking. If there's a better feeling than to take my fury warrior into an instance or raid and make the mages and rogues sweat for it, I don't know what it is. (Well, okay, there are a few things that are better, but it's still really fun to push every last ounce of DPS out of your rage bar.)

So we have rage, which even after normalization is still the most interesting 'power source' mechanic in the game. Energy doesn't require any sort of give and take between players or encounters, the recovery rate doesn't have anything to do with how much damage you take or deal out, and mana is just kind of there: the indirect symbiosis between groups that rage fosters is to my mind an astonishingly fun one. It can lead to heartbreaking lows (when you just don't have enough rage to execute that damn rogue before he vanishes) and shocking highs (like when your group is about to wipe on Prince and you manage a full rage execute that drops him just as the tank was about to go down) and is just generally fun and helpful in making warriors a unique experience. Bear druids can relate to some degree, but warriors use rage for everything. We don't forsake it for energy or mana when it's advantageous to do so because we can't do that.

Warriors are, for all the complaining any class can make about its shortcomings, a very powerful class indeed within the limited focus of what we can do. No, we can't heal - a rage to health ability would be nice, yes. No, we can't CC - Concussion Blow, Piercing Howl and Hamstring don't cut it as CC, and players are remarkably resistant to consider offtanking as a viable form of CC unless absolutely necessary. (This always baffles me. If I tank the mob, it's controlled, yes?) We can hit things. We can hit things in a way that makes them dead, or we can hit things in a less lethal but far more painful way that makes them want to squash our faces instead of the people in the back waving their hands in a way that keeps us from getting squashed. Oh, and we can apparently say some very insulting things while doing this. Sometimes we yell really loud and people around us feel stronger or healthier, I'm not sure what's up with that. I spend a lot of time on Vent musing about what I yelled that made everyone in my group gain an extra 1000+ health and so far the best suggestions from the guild seem to be either I promise you guys there will be cake after we kill this guy or Have you guys been working out, cause you look really good today. I have even less of an idea what I yell to make people feel weaker. Somehow my warrior knows that Gruul hates how fat his ankles are, I guess.

There's never any profit in trying to pick what the 'best' class is for any given role it can perform, and in some cases it's out and out silly - are Shadow Priests better for a DPS role than warlocks? Well, that depends on gear, spec, the makeup of your raid, and what you need from them. LIkewise, trying to say which class is the 'best' melee DPS, or 'best' tank, is fruitless. But I'll tell you this much: warriors can do either, and do them well. As for PvP, well, do I even need to say anything? Warriors are hardly an unbeatable class in PvP, far from it, but they're strong there. Especially if you're talented there. If like me you're a better PvE player than PvP, taking a warrior into PvP can be frustrating (especially in arenas) but that's not the fault of the class, but of the player, in this case me. We all know talented warriors in PvP are doing well, and even as bad as I am, I sometimes surprise myself with an epiphany and pull off a nice move or two.

Part of the reason I offer all these positives is to reassure people that yes, there's still a good reason to level a warrior to 70. As amazing as it may seem considering how many people play them, this week I saw quite a few negative 'why would you even bothering getting a warrior to 70' comments in both my new guild and when talking to an old friend who now tanks (as a paladin) for another guild. I see people who attempt the class finding the rage mechanic difficult and alien, the dependence on gear stifling, the peculiarities of warrior tanking twitchy and difficult to master compared to other tanks. Working out a tanking rotation can certainly be difficult. For instance, since last week I've come to swing back towards using Heroic Strike more often in my rotation, since after five sunders stack on a devastate the effect isn't reapplied, so you don't get sunder threat, just damage threat... I generally stack five devastates fast while working the shield slams and sb/revenges, and then queue up the HS between them until I see the sunders fall off the target, then I refresh the devastates as fast as possible and go back. So far it's producing very nice TPS, but I'm still not entirely sold on it.

I don't think warrior tanking is harder than other classes, and in fact I think it's more fun and more reactive than theirs is. This is a personal bias, I admit it. I've only tanked up to BRD on my paladin, though, so I won't pretend to expertise in those situations. But there's something I find deeply satisfying to working out a combination of specials and on next attacks to keep threat cresting above the DPS, spending rage for threat as fast as I can, balancing having a reserve for emergency abilities but making sure that I'm spending enough of it that I keep my lead. (If I ever have a full rage bar, be it when tanking, DPSing or PvPing, I feel like I'm doing something wrong... unless I'm waiting for something to drop below 20%, of course) - warrior DPSing is challenging for similar reasons, although you're not trying to build threat (in fact, pulling hate usually means a dead DPS warrior, since your health will be so much lower) and it usually requires a very careful placement of abilities depending on whether or not it's a boss fight, if there's CC in the area, if you have to move in and out of range (Prince is not a good warrior DPS fight, for instance) but I don't think the complexities of it are any harder than rogue or feral druid DPSing.

Basically, I don't want to see people new to the class scared off by its quirks, and I don't want old hands to get frustrated with what doesn't work as well as it could (threat scaling, I hate you threat scaling, scale better!) and give up on it. It's hardly an epidemic or anything, but I believe in being proactive, and it never hurts to focus on the positive, right? Well, unless there are bears eating your arms and you're focusing on how at least you still have legs. Trust me, those bears will get to your legs eventually. Yes, other classes can tank (oh no, they're taking our jobs!) and yes, another tanking/dps class is being added to the game, and yes, people don't always want to take warriors to DPS in instances, and yes, PvP warriors are constantly being compared to greek gods come down from Olympus to single-handedly win every single arena match they're in as soon as they show up (if warriors were that OP, why would we not form Warrior/Warrior or Warrior/Warrior/Warrior or even Warriorx5 teams? Cause we'd die. A lot.) and yes, there are still issues with prot spec soloing, with fury warrior versatility and raid viability, and with Arms warriors getting to do anything besides PvP (I know that some guilds will bring one arms warrior to apply debuffs to bosses so that the rogues get more damage, and I applaud these guilds) but in general, warriors are in good shape right now.

Once you really get the class, you'll fall in love with it, as long as the basic mentality of no frills, in the face, up close combat appeals to you.

Okay, here comes the comment section - feel free to tell me I'm insane and that warriors are horribly hobbled or broken, or point out positive aspects of the class I missed in this lovefest. Next week, and this time it's happening even if I have to nail a note to my head, fury DPS rotations!

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