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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Are warriors underpowered?

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors knew that there would be discussion of whether or not warriors are broken, and so decided to provide picture evidence that at least one warrior is broken indeed! Matthew Rossi apologizes for that pun. Really, he couldn't be expected to resist it, now could he? Look, mob violence never solved anything.

I have in the past written about what's not broken in the warrior class. So you might think that a column entitled "Are warriors underpowered?" would be easily answered with a no, and then we could move on.

And so it is. See you next week!

Oh, right. I still have to write a column. Also, to be fair, the answer is more complicated than no, although it ultimately works out to a no by means of averages. Warriors in the whole are not underpowered or broken, but they have some issues. Some aspects that have always annoyed me. It's too bad I don't have a weekly column about warriors so I can talk about that, isn't it?

So, then, Rossi, what's so wrong with warriors then?

We have one talent tree that can put out excellent DPS but is a crazy gearathon and which has no real viability outside of instances and grinding, an excellent tanking tree that... really tanks well, and does everything else poorly, and a tree that seems to be considered the PvP flavor of choice and which can provide a nice debuff so that other people can do more damage in PvE. These trees have varying degrees of synergy: if you focus on PvP you'll make arms your main tree and take a chunk of fury talents to increase your damage, and if you focus on PvE DPS you'll probably go fury and take some arms talents. Most tanks scrape out of the other two talent trees with at the most 13 talents between them.

Of course, all classes have these issues. But I'm not writing "The Care and Feeding of Everyone" here. While admitting that warriors are far from broken and don't need any major fixes or changes, there are tweaks and design philosophies that form bedrock assumptions among the warrior community, and some of them I've always disagreed with and wanted to challenge. There are aspects to leveling a warrior that are painful and annoying (having done it this many times now, I feel comfortable saying that) and quirks of the class' endgame rolls that need to be re-evaluated. And since this is the 45th installment of The Care and Feeding of Warriors, I figure now is as good a time as any for me to get up on a soapbox and rant about what I think. So here comes things I would change about the warrior class if I was handed the reins, and get ready to disagree heartily with all of them. Especially if you play a warrior. Some of this will even be serious, but not all of it, because frankly this is a game.

Mortal Strike needs to be changed or removed from the game.

Why do I say this? Why do I cast aspersions upon this most beloved of arms talents?

Because it is the most beloved of arms talents, despite the fact that we're three years into the game at this point, and there are new talents all over the tree. The 31 point talent in arms wildly eclipses anything above it. PvE arms warriors will gladly forgo Second Wind, Improved Mortal Strike and Endless Rage, and PvP warriors probably won't even bother with Blood Frenzy.

Frankly, they shouldn't. They'll get more benefit from shifting those talents over to fury. After you have mortal strike, the improved cooldown of one whole second for five ranks in Imp MS is laughable, and the damage increase is barely even noticeable. You'll get more from enrage/flurry. The talents after mortal strike punish you for taking them. Blood Frenzy is an awesome raid debuff, Second Wind is an excellent talent, but the cost in talent points and the need to get five in Flurry means that most PvP warriors will forgo it, and it's not terribly useful in PvE if you're a DPS spec trying to bring Blood Frenzy to up the rogues and hunters DPS.

Of course, one solution is simple. Buff mortal strike.

Stop looking at me like that. At present, mortal strike is not a high damage ability. Weapon damage + 210 at max rank is hardly overwhelming. Even with a weapon like World Breaker or Cataclysm's Edge it's not the damage the ability deals that people are afraid of, it's the debuff. (Sure, a crit from one of these weapons can hurt, but be honest, almost anyone can soak a 3000 damage crit nowadays, if they even happen with resilience as high as it is.) So move the ability up the tree to the 41 point talent (since it's practically the apex talent anyway) and buff its damage enough so that it's worth losing flurry for it.

Another possibility would be to get rid of it entirely. This would be an unabashed, and powerful, nerf to the class. By itself it would probably ruin most PvP warriors. And the very fact that suggesting it leaves me shaking my head at how boned warriors would be in PvP makes me think that warriors in PvP are just one note, one trick ponies. Warriors have a whole host of abilities from Intercept to Intimidating Shout, but these abilities are easily, even casually countered by other classes. The fact remains, for competitive PvP, you will bring a warrior for the Mortal Strike debuff or you will not bring him. His health, his high armor, his shouts, just about everything else a warrior can bring to PvP can be just as easily duplicated by a feral druid. Where are the feral druids in competitive PvP? Show me how they dominate arenas, please.

In the end, I think any change to MS would have to be part of a really large revamp of the class, and I expect that the only time we can expect to see that is if/when new talents are unveiled in Wrath of the Lich King. Right now, if you nerfed MS, you'd kill the competitive PvP aspect of the class. Warriors would come back to PvP, of course, because no matter what nerfs the class gets they always do. But it would be extremely painful for them to try and go over their talents and cobble together some new winning strategy in the face of healing heavy PvP. Most of what I'm saying here comes out of a frustration that I'll go more into in the next part and less a real desire to see the cornerstone of the Arms tree nerfed. It would hurt the class too much.

Warrior DPS is weird and irritating.

I've been playing City of Villains this week a lot with the folks from Massively. I started various toons, including a Stalker, their stealth-utilizing crit melee characters who pop out of stealth and unload buttloads of pain, and it was fun. But being who I am, I ended up settling on what is called the 'Brute' class. Both the Stalker and the Brute are high damage melee characters. The Stalker utilizes stealth to come at an enemy and deal out punishment. The Brute walks up to things and beats them into the ground. No subtlety. No sneakiness, no dual-wielding, just massive physical damage.

This is what warriors should be.

The warrior approach to DPS should be walking up to your enemies and hitting them as hard as you can with the biggest thing you can find. Stormherald should have another Stormherald welded to the top of it, and a Torch of the Damned welded on top of that. I'm tired of discussions of hit rating vs crit, tired of dual wielding and feeling like a rogue in shinier gear. Tired of having to wear leather or mail for DPS roles. The best DPS gear for warriors should be plate, and it should work on a different mechanic than rogues or shamans or feral druids. Warriors should be monsters in battered plate armor who wade into a group and just smash and smash and smash until everything is dead or they are.

In PvP, warriors try and do this. But really, all they do is stand there and debuff people so someone else can kill them faster. In PvE, warriors either debuff a target with Blood Frenzy so someone else (a bunch of someone elses, mind) can kill it faster, or they strap on two weapons and whatever mishmash of leather, mail and plate they've collected and get two weapons out to act like rogues and enhancement shamans.

Now, I like fury. I leveled two warriors as fury and I raided exclusively as fury for a long time. I killed everything up to Faerlina as a fury warrior who tanked when necessary, only respeccing arms and then prot when the expansion came out. And if warriors want to dual wield, well, that's their personal preference and I don't want to make it harder for them. But man, I loved my 2h fury build and it just seems wrong for me as an old grump, as if it steps away from the very idea of the tree and even the core conception of the class as a mass of rage. If warriors must dual wield, can't they dual wield burning chainsaws or something?

In all seriousness, my personal prejudices aside, I've seen some damn fine fury warriors put out some very impressive DPS in raids up to Hyjal/BT now. I admire their in-game skill, their dedication to their class, their willingness to strap on a cloth belt if it somehow would boost their DPS. But at the same time I feel sad for them, and for the class, that the best way to maximize personal DPS as a warrior is to dress up in a patchwork of gear and flail around like a rogue, and I'm desperately hoping that 2h slam builds get tweaked for more DPS viability. I want to see a lot more warriors DPSing with gigantic, ground crushing weapons and wearing the plate they were meant to wear.

Tanking is awesome once you're in T5 and higher content. Before that it's pretty awful.

I love tanking now.

I hated it for a long time through the five mans, through Karazhan, and even into the beginning of 25 man raiding at Gruul's and Mag's, although less so there. I stood around in five mans twiddling my thumbs waiting for PuG's to realize they weren't going to be able to get a druid or paladin and finally condescend to ask me to tank for them. I was more or less carried through Karazhan by AoE spamming paladin tanks. But then something wonderful started to happen at the end bosses and new encounters.

I was being asked to tank again.

As a tank, there's nothing I hate more than doing nothing. I hate being asked to put on my scavenged DPS gear (more mail and leather, gaaah) and dual wield. I want to be the guy tanking, it's what I spec'ed to do, if I'm going to be DPS in the raid why am I still prot? I understand that this is not the raid group's fault... they didn't design the dungeon with waves of undead trash that are more easily AoE tanked and then bosses who usually only need a single tank (or no tank at all) and other bosses that need at least two tanks (Moroes, Netherspite). But it's still tremendously annoying to be brought to a raid to tank three bosses. Even if one of them is the end boss.

Moving fully into the 25 man raids was the best thing that ever happened to me as a tank.
You need three or four tanks here, you can't just AoE tank them all down until you hit Hyjal, and even there you want someone to pull focus mobs out of the AoE for easy killing. The boss fights are complicated and interesting and I often get to main tank them, which is just seventeen tons of awesome.

So to all you warriors out there being rejected for heroics because other tanks can do it without CC and don't have to wait for rage, just hold on. I doubt you'll get fixed to make AoE tanking viable for you, so I can only hope that Wrath of the Lich KIng introduces more varied content in its five man dungeons so that you can shine there again, but regardless, eventually you will be needed to tank again.

Unless you reroll Death Knight, in which case you'll probably be out there giggling as you tank with a 2h weapon the way we always wished we could.

In conclusion: warriors as a class aren't underpowered. If you don't like the state of the class now (and as we can see, I have some issues) then just hold on long enough and it will change. WotLK is coming, most likely with whole new talents and the Inscription ability to change your character in ways that are not readily apparent now. Maybe we'll get to dual-wield 2h weapons! With other, bigger 2h weapons welded onto them! (I don't know why I find that image so amusing.) Sometimes old cranks like me just need to rant, I guess.

Next week, we'll take a serious look at fury. Is the best gear for the spec really leather and mail? Some would say yes. (Hard to argue with those badge gloves, huh?)

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