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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: The constantly evolving beta warrior

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is about warriors, who hurl themselves into the fray, into the very teeth of danger, armed with nothing more than the biggest weapons and armored with the absolutely heaviest armor we can find. Hey, we're not stupid, we're just crazy.

This week, we shift gears a little. We have to talk about the constant evolution of the talent trees and class design in the beta test. The first thing we must keep in mind when we discuss the beta or PTR patches or anything like that is that the design is always evolving, and what's currently on test may or may not make it to live. We saw a new patch with a whole host of abilities drop or change. We'll see more of them. The purpose of looking at these patches is never "look, here's what you will look like when you play in Cataclysm" but rather "look, here's what they've done so far to the class and what we can learn from it."

What we can see from the new talents is that more variety in terms of rage consumption and conservation is being worked into the system. As an example, Unbridled Wrath (never a particularly popular talent in the past couple of years) is gone, replaced by Battle Trance. This is indicative of the continuing paradigm shift on how rage should work for DPS players away from a simplistic "do anything you can to get more" design and towards a more nuanced, perhaps even complicated, way to look at rage, rage generation and rage consumption.

The arms talent Deadly Calm is an example of a talent designed around the oft-mentioned "disciplined, soldiery feel of arms," one that seeks to give the spec that cool-under-fire sense, to contrast it from fury's barbaric direction. With Deadly Calm, I see the beginning of strategy in terms of how and when to use rage as an arms warrior. If you're close to activating Inner Rage, using Deadly Calm will let you still unleash that flurry of Mortal Strike, Overpower and Executes without preventing you from gaining the 50% damage increase for your special attacks.

Whether or not any of these particular abilities make it to live in their current form or not, we can glean a great deal from looking at their current implementation. The biggest difficulty in balancing warriors as DPS over the past five years has been the rage mechanic, which hobbles the undergeared and at high levels of gear gives a near-infinite stream of powerful attacks.

While on the surface the new rage design avoids the complications of the runes/runic power design of death knights or the holy power changes to paladins, if you look closely at the way these new talents and abilities interact, you start to get a sense of each spec's relationship to rage generation and its expenditure. At present, protection more or less uses rage as it does now (since we know that the devs consider the prot warrior redesign one of the accomplishments of Wrath of the Lich King, that's not terribly surprising), while fury is becoming more and more about reaching an enraged state in order to gain damage bonuses and use special, enrage-only abilities like Raging Blow. Fury warriors are basically constantly trying to Hulk out, going mad with fury and smashing everything in their path. Fury warriors will most likely focus less on conserving rage for Inner Rage (as nice as the damage buff will be) and more on making the most of those enrages, doing whatever they can to activate them and capitalize on them.

Arms, meanwhile, will have access to both Deadly Calm and Battle Trance (again, as of this build), making entering an enrage less important (the change to Wrecking Crew makes only Mortal Strike critical hits enrage you, most likely due to the high crit strike chance of Improved Overpower) than directing and conserving the flow of rage where it's most important. Arms won't just play differently than fury because of its many procs, which has hampered fury's design in this expansion, since if you put in a proc-based ability like the original Impending Victory, it seems like an arms ability. It will play differently because arms will be more about making sure to conserve your rage until just the right moment than the other trees.

Well, at least until we see future builds.

What is clear is that the paradigm of how rage works and how it should be used is becoming much more layered. With the addition of Inner Rage, various enrage-based abilities for fury, and now superior rage conservation for arms, we're looking at a complex, stratified system of resource acquisition and expenditure. Do you want to be a weapon master with control over himself and his chosen instrument, or do you just want to go blood-frenzied insane? Now, it will actually make a difference.

Prot continues to stand behind these two shaking its head ruefully, strapping the door to a walk-in freezer to its arm and smashing it into things. Again, if it isn't broken ...

We'll take a look at the latest changes courtesy of MMO-Champion.

  • Wrecking Crew now procs from your Mortal Strike critical hits instead of all melee critical hits and gives a 33/66/100% chance to enrage you.
  • Lambs to the Slaughter has been revamped. After you deal a Mortal Strike, your next Execute, Overpower or Mortal Strike will cause 10/20/30% more damage.
  • Impale now affects Overpower instead of Execute.
  • Deadly Calm For the next 10 seconds, none of your abilities cost rage but you continue to generate rage; instant, on a 2-minute cooldown.
  • Endless Rage is now a primary skill.
  • Bloodsurge now affects Raging Blow instead of Whirlwind.
  • Meat Cleaver got an additional bonus. It increases the damage done by your Cleave and Whirlwind abilities by 20%, and your Cleaves and Whirlwinds have a 60% chance to increase the damage of your next Cleave or Whirlwind by an additional 10/20%.
  • Intensify Rage is now a two-rank talent reducing the cooldown of your Bloodrage, Berserker Rage, Recklessness and Death Wish abilities by 10/20% (down from three ranks, 11/22/33% reduction).
  • Unbridled Wrath has been replaced by Battle Trance. Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage.
ProtectionEndless Rage replaces Anger Management as an arms talent specialization ability, with Deadly Calm taking its place. (Anger Management just seems to be gone entirely.) Wrecking Crew and Lambs to the Slaughter both serve to re-emphasize Mortal Strike in a tree in which this former 31-talent tree faces pressure for its role as a signature attack. Impale's now increasing the damage on Overpower crits helps shore it up after losing the chance for Imp Overpower to proc an enrage.

The Bloodsurge change emphasizes Raging Blow's move to replace WW in the single-target DPS rotation. The Meat Cleaver change seems designed to help with what I've noticed running my gnome around, namely, that Whirlwind hits like an anemic toddler and is too weak with too long a cooldown to be useful as AoE. (I suspect they'll keep trying weird fixes like this, because the second they make it hit for 100% weapon damage is the second it goes back into the single-target rotation). The Intensify Rage change frees up a point (at the cost of longer cooldowns on a host of abilities -- /sadface), and we'll see how Battle Trance works out.

I personally wouldn't have minded seeing Safeguard taken out entirely. The Gag Order change is nice; I hate waiting that minute when I need to do a silencing pull. Everything else is fairly minimal, as I said before; prot's in a solid place as it is.

Next week, we'll talk about how streamlining the leveling process helps a great deal for warriors.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

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