Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Cataclysm Class Changes: Warrior analysis

Matthew Rossi

Well, hey, how about that Inner Rage, huh? I seem to recall asking for something like that a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I can see the future. In which case, where are these insights when big lottery jackpots are on the line?

So far, looking over the warrior changes I see some good, some bad, some very good and some we don't know yet. So let's get down to brass tacks, as it were.

Heroic Leap (Level 85): This ability makes the character leap at their target and apply the Thunder Clap ability to all enemies in the area when they land. Heroic Leap will be usable in Battle Stance and shares a cooldown with Charge, but the Juggernaut and Warbringer talents will allow Heroic Leap to be used in any stance and possibly while in combat. The cooldown for this ability might be longer than the Charge ability, but it will also apply a stun effect so you can make sure the target will still be there when you land.

I really have nothing negative here. I hope they can make it work out, since in Wrath the biggest issue with this ability was its targeting. I assume they're getting around that by making it require a target to work, as the language seems to indicate.

Looking at these changes, the first thing I notice is that several old mainstays of the class are getting revamped. We already knew about the Rage Normalization and Heroic Strike changes, of course. There's more on the changing table than just those, though.

  • Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, and possibly Demoralizing Shout will work more like the death knight's Horn of Winter ability. Specifically, these shouts will cost no resources, generate rage in addition to their current effects, and be on a short cooldown.
  • Whirlwind will hit an unlimited number of targets, but only for 50% of weapon damage. The intent is for this ability to be used in multi-target scenarios and not on single targets.
  • Overall, heals cast by players in Cataclysm will be a lower number relative to players' health than the current game. So to make the Mortal Strike debuff less mandatory but still useful in PvP, Mortal Strike will reduce healing by only 20%. All equivalent debuffs, including the Shadow priest and Frost mage debuffs, will be for 20% less healing. At the moment we aren't considering giving this debuff to anyone else, though we will certainly consider PvP utility for historically under-represented specs that use other mechanics.
  • Sunder Armor will be reduced to three stacks instead of five, and still provide only a 4% reduction in armor per stack. We want to make this debuff easier to apply and less of a damage swing when it falls off.

We knew they were talking about making shouts give rage instead of take rage (I hope they reconsider on Demoralizing, though; it would be bad to not be able to apply it to a hard-hitting boss because it was on cooldown), but the change to Whirlwind is one I expected and even demanded a few times. Whirlwind is the reason Titan's Grip was too good before the 10% damage tax was added, because it hit with both weapons and was an instant attack with a short cooldown. Reducing the damage it does but increasing its target cap will make it more of a real AoE and much less attractive than the new Heroic Strike for single-target DPS. (Frankly, with this change, TG doesn't need that penalty anymore, and I hope they rethink it.)

Mortal Strike and Sunder Armor, though -- these are as close to sacred cows as the warrior class has. Mortal Strike has propped up the arms warrior in PvP through two expansions where his or her damage has swung wildly from extreme to extreme. Sunder is so iconic that there are entire guilds with names like "Wait for Sunders" out there. I'm not terribly excited to hear that MS is getting a pretty hefty reduction in its effectiveness. It seems to me like it will go from feeling mandatory to feeling absolutely pointless with so massive a drop in its percentage, combined with large health pools and smaller heals. Likewise, adjusting Sunder in this way will really need to watch Devastate and its threat component for prot warrior tanks.

There's new stuff to talk about too, of course.

New Warrior Abilities

Inner Rage (Level 81): Whenever the character reaches a full 100 Rage, he or she will gain a buff that causes attacks to consume 50% more Rage and do 15% more damage for a short amount of time. This is a passive ability so it won't need to be activated by the player. The goal for this ability is to provide a benefit for hitting max Rage instead of it feeling like a penalty. However, we also don't want warriors to feel like they're supposed to pool Rage and do nothing until they hit 100, so we'll be closely monitoring how this plays out during the beta testing, and making adjustments as needed.

Gushing Wound (Level 83): This ability will apply a bleed effect to the target. If the target moves, the bleed gains an extra stack and refreshes its duration, up to a maximum of three stacks. The ability is currently planned to have no cooldown, cost 10 Rage, and have a 9-second duration. Gushing Wound is designed to be weaker than Rend with one stack, but better with three stacks, which will be reached when fighting a moving target.

New Talents and Talent Changes

  • The Furious Sundering talent in the Fury tree will make the Sunder Armor ability cause 25/50% weapon damage and reduce the threat generated by 50/100%.
  • The Mace and Poleaxe Specialization talents in the Arms tree will be removed. These provided just passive stats, which are not the kinds of talents we want to design in the future. We will keep the Sword Specialization talent, but it will be changed to a talent that applies to all types of weapons.
  • As a Fury talent, Booming Voice will increase the Rage generated by shouts.
  • While we like how Titan's Grip plays, we recognize some warriors liked the Fury tree because of the really fast swings that dual-wielding one-handed weapons could provide. Therefore, we're planning to try out a talent called Single-Minded Fury that is parallel to Titan's Grip and will provide a large boost to the damage of a pair of one-handed weapons.
  • Several talents that reduce the Rage cost of abilities will be changed to focus on increased damage for those abilities instead.
  • The new Arms talent called Disarming Nature will make successful disarms cause the target to cower in fear for 5/10 seconds.
  • Another new Arms talent called Blitz will make the Charge ability hit for extra damage. The amount will possibly vary depending on the distance travelled.
  • Improved Pummel, a Fury talent, will cause a successful interrupt to generate 10/20 Rage.

I like the mechanic of a benefit to having max rage (since I've called for it like six times, I'd better), and I'm interested in seeing if Inner Rage ends up overly expensive. Paying half again as much rage for 15% more damage seems ... a tad high. A 20 rage ability doing 1,000 damage would cost 30 rage and do 1150 damage? Not terribly exciting. The concept is sound, but the numbers need tweaking.

Gushing Wound is your PvP rend. It could also be good for fights where a boss or target moves around a lot ... Gushing Wounds would be pretty sexy on the Val'kyr in the Arthas fight, for instance. Heck, with Arthas being kited around a lot in P2 and P3, you might want to use it there, too.

Even though I play primarily as fury when I DPS, I am cognizant that Disarming Nature and Blitz are pretty hot. Especially if Blitz affects Heroic Leap as well as Charge. (Even if it doesn't, it's still nice. Charge should do some damage; it's pretty silly how little it hits for.) Still, while both are nice, arms definitely feels like it's not getting anything really special to replace that huge hit MS takes. Losing poleaxe and mace spec, then getting sword spec for all weapons doesn't really seem entirely fair, either.

Furious Sundering will make Sunder an actual attack and with Whirlwind moving into the role of true AoE, we might well see Sunder and HS filling its part of a fury warrior's "rotation." Single-Minded Fury will make a lot of fury warriors who wanted to keep on using 1H weapons happy. I may even build a fist weapon set for my SMF spec. Although I do still love you, Titan's Grip. And Imp Pummel may actually motivate that one fury warrior in your raid who refuses to pummel to start doing it.

Now we should take a look at how Mastery is going to work for warriors. First, I'm going to talk about prot and its mastery tree, as it contains a concept other tanks are going to see.

Damage Reduction
Critical Block Chance

Critical Block Chance: As we mentioned in the stat changes preview, block rating is changing to a chance to block 30% of a melee swing's damage. Protection warriors have a chance that the block will be a critical block and block for 60% of a melee swing's damage instead. There will likely be talents available to push the amount blocked even higher.

Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's un-buffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Protection tree. These values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Protection tree, so you won't see Arms or Fury warriors running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today – there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is for all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

Damage Reduction as the first-tier prot mastery is pretty self-explanatory. Expect to see something like it for all tanks.

Critical Block Chance is, well, a chance to block for more. It's good. Remembering the incoming block changes, buffing a 30% damage reduction to a 60% reduction is pretty fine. Vengeance does nothing to solve the problem of prot warriors' trying to do meaningful DPS when not directly tanking something. But the idea is sound as a means to keep warrior tanking DPS on par with other tanks while tanking, at least, a situation that hasn't been the case for almost all of Wrath. It's actually a fairly elegant solution to the old "how does being a punching bag make me threatening" idea of tanking, and it takes the basic idea of old rage generation (the harder you get hit, the harder you can hit back) and makes it something all tanks will share.

Arms and fury, meanwhile, share the first tier of their mastery, which makes sense. Both are DPS specs, both should have an increase to DPS as a mastery benefit, so Melee Damage works as a good shared mastery. The second tier for arms is Armor Penetration, meaning that the old Mace Spec benefit is now a passive for all arms warriors using any weapon they like, which is a step forward. Finally, as stated before, arms gets the bonus swing of Sword Specialization as their top-tier mastery, meaning that while poleaxe's crit is gone gone gone, all arms warriors will effectively have both mace and sword spec with any weapon they want. That's not too bad.

Fury's second-tier mastery will be melee haste, and since we know that haste will be helping with rage generation in Cataclysm, that's a pretty solid second-tier ability. Admittedly, it's not earth-shaking. The final tier ability, Enrage Intensity, will benefit all enrage effects (abilities like Enraged Regeneration, Death Wish, Enrage, Bloodrage and so on), making them better in all ways. This has the potential to be really, really good. It might even make Enrage worth taking again, although with that and Death Wish not stacking, you may prefer the on-use nature of Death Wish to the "maybe it will proc" nature of Enrage.

In the end, I'm cautiously excited for fury (especially for our friends who wanted a return to 1H weapons) and protection, but I think arms needs more love and hope future previews provide it.

Edited to add: Bornakk has posted more details on the forums. Look for an extended analysis of all the details tomorrow.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr