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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: I cannot see the future

Matthew Rossi

Frankly, the Bladestorm nerf is a minor one, albeit an extremely annoying minor one. Granted, it means that opposing rogues, warriors and sometimes hunters (ah, hunters, the Y's of WoW) will be able to turn the major source of "And now YOU DIE" available to arms warriors in PvP into "Whee, I'm a pretty ballerina watch me spin". Arms is still pretty strong if it's geared to the absolute teeth and has significant backup, which is about the best you can expect from a warrior in PvP.

PvP for a warrior has always been "die ten million times to other classes until you finally get geared enough to get some payback and then get nerfed because they don't like it when their free kill turns around and kills them back" anyway. This is just more of the same and not even really significant more of the same, it's a very minor change that only rankles because it's piled on the back of more significant (and in some cases more ridiculous) nerfs to the class. It irritates me, sure, but let's be honest: that's not terribly hard to accomplish.

Arms in general has been getting the crap end of the stick this expansion. It's ludicrously difficult to gear for it in PvP, it got outperformed by protection for a while, and in PvE you end up as a bleed bot for feral druids while the fury warriors scale better even with all the neat tricks arms can do. Of course, part of this is ye old 'hybrid tax' which penalizes you for playing a class that has a tanking spec. There have been back and forth arguments on that... is it fair, should it exist at all, what would become to pure DPS classes without it (oh, boo hoo, we must protect the poor vulnerable little rogues and mages, let's set up a bloody nature preserve for the precious little darlings so they won't be threatened) etc etc.

This week, I'm not here to debate whether or not it should exist or how it should be applied. It's here, we have to deal with it. Instead, I'm here to argue that due to the fact that it exists, DPS specs for warriors become even more important and must be as viable for as broad an application as possible. The time has come for the warrior to no longer have dedicated trees for specific roles. With the coming of Mastery, we're looking at an opportunity for real, meaningful change to the class that I hope Blizzard embraces. It's time for arms, fury and protection (yes, protection) to be viable tanking and DPS trees.

Back in the middle of last year, Blizzard posted a Class Q&A on the warrior that I've never been able to get out of my head. One of the reasons is the following passage.

Bornakk - Class Q&A Series: Warrior
Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel "soldierly." Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad. You get a sense of that, but it could be stronger. With the death knight, we allowed all three trees to more or less be able to tank. There is a desire among some players and designers to see Arms tank with a two-hander while Prot tanks with a shield. We're still not sure that's the direction we'll go -- it's a ton of re-design and will never work for say the druid or paladin classes.

Frankly, druids and paladins are a bad fit for modeling how much homogenization there should be for warrior tanks. Druids and paladin have to fit three or four roles into three trees: by necessity their trees need to be variable and segregated. You need a tree that does DPS, a tree that does tanking, a tree that does healing. (Druids already have to straddle one of their trees between a DPS and tanking role, in fact.) In comparison, warriors have one tanking tree, and two trees that Blizzard has previously said they would like to see viable as both PvP and PvE DPS trees. How do you do this?

Frankly, we have to look at the other two classes in World of Warcraft that could be described as 'semi-hybrid', the priest and the death knight. (Shamans are borderline, having a ranged and melee DPS role and a healing role... if we consider a druid to have four roles, shamans have three) Priests have a straightforward healing tree, a (as of Wrath) creatively designed healing tree with lots of prevention built in, and a DPS tree. So they're a two role hybrid, a heal/heal/DPS class. Warriors, on the other hand, are a DPS/DPS/Tanking class. Two thirds of a warriors' 'hybrid vigor' if you will, two thirds of what makes a warrior supposedly more attractive to play than a 'pure' DPS class, is in fact DPS talents. A warrior pays the same hybrid tax as a druid, a paladin, or a priest but while those classes are only paying that tax on 1/3rd to 1/2 of their potential roles, a warrior pays it on 2/3rds of their talents.

Now take the death knight's design into account. Love them or hate them, there's no arguing that the DK, like the warrior, is a two role hybrid and fulfills the same two basic roles, tank or DPS. However, even taking into account the buff/nerf cycle of a newly added class, the basic elegance of the death knight talent system cannot be denied. Rather than role oriented, each tree is thematic, focusing on one of three 'power sources' for death knights, their ability to manipulate blood, control frost,and channel unholy power. Each of their trees has both tanking and DPS potential if properly utilized.

It's time to break warriors (and possibly priests as well, I'll leave that to a priest to discuss) out of their tree/role paradigm. There's simply not enough hybridization in a two role hybrid to make DPS/DPS/Tanking a viable talent paradigm. Mastery bonuses for arms and fury will be fairly boring and similar at best and radically favoring one spec over another at worst, and protection will be predictable. Tanking an instance isn't the only way to protect someone: you can protect by annihilating the enemy, as an example.

It's time to move arms and fury into the paths Blizzard has said they intended for them. The arms warrior should be a disciplined master of weapons, precise and deadly. The fury warrior should be the Diablo III barbarian, we all know this to be true. Rage maddened roaring lunatics smashing everything in their path. Protection warriors should be armored juggernauts that wade into combat and use that heavy armor to crash their way through waves of foes, sacrificing the arms warrior precise strikes and fury warrior dual weild mayhem for sheer, relentless power. (Perhaps even rename it the Warbringer tree, if you wanted to go that far. Arms, fury and protection are pretty boring and protection is shared with another class, it would be nice to beef up the uniqueness a little.)

The purpose here is not to escape the hybrid tax. The purpose is to actually bring to warriors the feeling of being a hybrid. With a two role hybrid, without significant work to truly diversify the talent trees the ones that overlap feel, essentially, like boring half-copies of each other that exist primarily for baseline talents for the other spec to pick up. Almost all DPS warriors, arms or fury, are going to take Cruelty in the current paradigm, as it's five talent points for a guaranteed 5% to crit. It only gets better as you level because 1% crit costs more and more critical strike rating as you level up, but it never costs more talent points to get those five points from Cruelty. You'd be mad not to take them.

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