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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Comes the Cataclysm redux

Matthew Rossi

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, old gods, and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

Last year, we talked about Cataclysm. Since then, we've learned an awful lot about how it's going to affect warriors, starting as soon as patch 4.0.1 drops and changing a whole host of systems we've grown accustomed to. We've learned that the release date is my birthday. I'm pretty sure it's just a coincidence, but I'm still going to ride that coincidence for all it is worth.

What's interesting to me as we look at the coming expansion with another year's perspective is how much of what we heard about is going to be delivered. Yes, defense is gone, armor penetration is gone, reforging is coming, mastery is in. Rage normalization, a rebalancing of tanking to move away from AoE threat's being the expected norm, the transformation of on-next-swing abilities to become instant attacks. Three new warrior races, with the two expansion races and blood elves finally being able to be warriors. It was a heck of a laundry list and amazingly, Blizzard actually seems to be on track to deliver almost all of it.

We've discussed before that 4.0.1 will be a huge sea change for many warriors. I understand feeling some trepidation. I even share your feelings. There will be adjustments to make, and we'll see some changes in how things work that may hinder us in our chosen roles. If you're a DPS warrior, a PvPing warrior, a tanking warrior, I want to be honest and up front with you. You will lose some ability. Rage is changing, stats we rely on are leaving the game -- even the way our abilities are keyed for use is changing. You have every right to feel uncertain about it, and I'm not trying to minimize that. But let's be honest: From the time 4.0.1 drops until World of Warcraft: Matt's Birthday ships, it's not really going to matter if threat is wonky or DPS is low. Better it be now and fixed by launch, ultimately.

Once my birthday comes around, of course, you can be a female goblin warrior. I'm still hoping for immediate race change, because man, that looks badass.

So you want to AoE tank?

We've been talking a lot about tanking in World of Warcraft Matt's Birthday over the past couple of columns. While I don't want to dwell overmuch on it this time out, I did think the following thread should get a quick look. It's a discussion of Thunder Clap's damage and how AoE tanking is supposed to work in Matt's Birthday (OK, last time).

Ghostcrawler - Re: Thunderclap is too weak

Bottom line, NO TANKING CLASS CAN AOE TANK ANYMORE. This is an intended change. It totally screws us over for existing content, but Blizzard seems unconcerned about that.

That actually isn't an intended change. We don't want AE healing to be trivial. I'll use some examples:

A) Pile of 20 whelps. Go ahead and AE tank this and ask your dps to AE too. You probably don't even need Shield Slam.

B) One giant. I wouldn't use Thunder Clap at all on this, except as needed to keep the debuff up. We want Thunder Clap to be terrible for holding single targets. (I don't think many tanks would argue this point.)

C) A pack of 4 targets that you plan to burn down one at a time. Here is the biggest point of contention. Thunder Clap should be fine for establishing initial aggro (though Shockwave will be better), and it should be fine for keeping add #3 off of the healer. But you should feel like you have to go to town with single target abilities on add #1 that the dps are all focused on. Then you should switch attention to add #2. In Lich King, it was too easy to just hold this whole group with Thunder Clap spam, and to be fair, the dps would just AE as well.

D) The same pack as in C, but this time you decide to CC add #3 and #4. In this case, you should be able to live fine without Thunder Clap at all (unless you really need the debuff).

If you think about it, this isn't that different from what we had to do in The Burning Crusade. On bosses like, say, Dragonhawk in ZA, there were constant streams of hatchlings that needed to be AoE tanked down -- and frankly, back then, warriors were super-horrible at it. Even in the somewhat attenuated Cataclysm state, it should be a lot easier to do this kind of tanking than it was in BC. However, the next statement from this thread struck me as very interesting.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Thunderclap is too weak
We had already nerfed Swipe before I saw this conversation, because it was pretty far out in front of other tank AE dps. Thunder Clap's coefficient is something like 0.10 and that could probably be 0.20, which would bring it more in line.

We are also talking a lot about just buffing tank threat across the board, because we've heard a lot recently that it's still too twitchy.

On the one hand, this confuses me greatly. First off, I never expected to see Swipe nerfed. It's been better than TC ever since it was buffed to allow it to hit targets behind the druid; I don't get why now Blizzard suddenly cares how much better it is. I find the fact that Blizzard could effectively double TC's coefficient and that would merely bring it in line to be really, really odd.

I do, however, at least take some comfort that Blizzard's considering increasing tank threat. If you've tanked on the beta, you've noticed how strange and inconsistent threat can seem. It's hard to tell why. Are we at the mercy of rapidly diminishing combat ratings' having a powerful effect on threat stats like hit and expertise? Are we simply not putting out threat? Is threat just not scaling as well as DPS? Has there been a drop in pure threat when high-threat abilities were more or less normalized and threat was baked directly into tanking stances?

To be honest, I couldn't tell you. Some classes seem to pull threat a lot more easily than others. I had tremendous issues with warlocks and boomkin druids my last few heroic runs in both Stonecore and Halls of Origination; I don't know if it's losing the threat transfer from Vigilance or just plain and simple not having sufficient threat baked in to do the job. It could be something as simple as the new ability queue system keeping me from making use of my procs.

But based on the fact that Defensive Stance is seeing a buff in the latest PTR patch, I think it's safe to say there's some awareness of the threat inconsistencies. Going from 125 percent threat in D Stance to 200 percent threat should mean that the initial part of the pull for warrior tanks will feel less, "Oh please don't let them do anything stupid." This is an across-the-board chance for all tanks, mind you, which really makes me interested to see how each tank does. We're clearly not going to AoE down everything, but it shouldn't go back to the days of stepping down from tanking because the other guys are just plain better at it.

Bracing ourselves

Whenever 4.0.1 drops, it won't be the end but the beginning of an entirely new way to play our class. It's going to require us to pay attention, to understand that our new abilities won't be balanced for level 80 raids, and to adapt to some heavy changes. This is the most sweeping set of alterations to how classes work in the history of the game, far more so than either The Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King. You are going to have to relearn your class. Itemization is going to change. Abilities are going to change. How threat is generated, how our resources work, how our rotations work -- you're not wrong if you're feeling a little daunted. But please don't be overly concerned. The goal is not to punish you.

Steps are being taken to keep things consistent. A lot of work is being done to standardize things like threat, resource management and damage. Yeah, you'll need to process a lot of change. World of Warcraft: Matt's Birthday (OK, OK, I really won't do it again ... the column's nearly over) is almost an entirely new game, but it does a good job of retaining what everyone likes about warriors. Even with all this change, your arms warrior feels like a warrior.

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

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