The Care and Feeding of Warriors: A tale of two furies

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|05.28.11

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: A tale of two furies
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.

Well, all we've heard from the PTR for warriors is deafening silence. As I said before, my general distrust of patches has been fully awakened with patch 4.2's complete lack of enormous nerfs.

The past week has been pretty active for me. While every boss in every raid who can drop shoulder armor of any kind has endlessly refused to, Cho'gall finally coughed up my axe, so I'm happy about that. I'm also working to gear up my other worgen warrior (he's pretty solidly ilevel 356 by now) and have started the climb on my tauren warrior. I just missed ol' hornhead so much that I'm willing to put up with Warchief NoNeck.

I've also been running parse after parse on both my 85 warriors, in both SMF and TG specs and various gear sets -- literally dozens of parses. Why? Because I had a nagging voice in the back of my head after I recently argued that hit now totally overshadows mastery as a fury DPS stat. I want some Nutter Butter cookies, the voice whispered. Even though they don't sell those up here in Canada, I want them. Thankfully, after I got it some lesser cookies, it shut up about that and instead insisted I test my assertions out for myself. The results kind of surprised me.

Mastery and hit for single-minded fury

First up, I tested single-minded fury. Starting out at 18% hit and 7% mastery, I kept dropping hit and adding mastery until I was at 12% hit and around 12% mastery. On the lesser-geared warrior, this put me at 17% crit and 9,400 AP, Battle-Shouted. (These are all rounded off, of course.) I found that with SMF, hit always rewarded me with more DPS than mastery and that dropping hit for mastery as I was plateaued my numbers. On the raiding dummy (effectively a level 88 mob for purposes of testing), SMF with 18% hit and 7% mastery gave me about 15k DPS with proper use of cooldowns. Dropping hit for mastery made for increasingly streaky results (a few misses in a row, and DPS would just plummet), so that while I could burst fairly high with a well-timed Death Wish or a lucky few enrages, overall DPS dropped to about 12-13k on the same dummy.

Even four ZG runs as SMF fury on the better-geared warrior seemed to bear this out. Even with Cleave and Whirlwind entering the equation, SMF with lower hit suffered badly from miss streaks and started to suffer as soon as I dropped to 16% hit. To be honest, I wasn't at all surprised by this. It's what I'd expected would happen with the changes to Precision in patch 4.1.

Right about now, you're probably thinking Man, I could really go for some Nutter Butters. I don't blame you. But after you get some, eat them, and are properly thankful that you live somewhere that they are attainable, you may then be thinking Why are you bothering to tell us that hit and mastery worked out like you expected? Well, the reason I'm telling you this is because these were just my SMF tests. My Titan's Grip tests? Those were far less predictable.

Titan's Grip, mastery and hit

I started out on the lower-geared warrior and did the exact same thing, varying hit and mastery as closely as I could to the original parses -- a little more AP and crit, but not significantly more. (He's using two Jeklik's Smasher's.) What I immediately noticed is that going from 18% to 15% hit and increasing mastery as I went primarily through reforging, I saw a solid 500 DPS jump per point. I went from about 13.5k to 15K, which was my plateau. At that point, losing hit seemed to initiate the streakiness I'd seen in SMF, but mastery still seemed to increase DPS to the point that the streaks of misses didn't cause my DPS to drop significantly. It held steady on the raid dummy near the 15 to 16k mark. Longer parses (three runs at 14% hit and 11% mastery for 5 minutes apiece) each gave me the same basic 15.5k, a few hundred up or down.

Switching to the better-geared warrior, I gained about 1k attack power and was at 19% crit. As I expected, my first parse at 17% hit and 8.9% mastery was higher, starting out at 14.9k DPS. What amazed me was that this time, I had to drop to around 12% hit before streakiness really seemed to inhibit my DPS; even with those miss streaks, I was reaching about 17 to 17.5k DPS for shorters parses and a handy 16.5k for 5-minute runs.

What got even weirder was that six ZG/ZA runs muddied the issue. If anything, my DPS didn't change much at all on those six runs, no matter what my hit/mastery setups were. Even with high DPS competition making mobs die faster so that ramp-up time was less, DPS tended to stay between 18 and 19k. Some fights rewarded one stat more (Malacrass and Jindo in particular really seemed to reward mastery stacking), while fights like Venoxis and Akilzon seemed more hit-friendly. Basically, for TG, any fight that has a lot of target switching or movement seems to favor hit, while any fight that lets you get settled in and open up with cooldowns without worrying about moving around too much gets more benefit from mastery.

The above image is to give you an idea of how bursty TG can get with high mastery. That's a single two berserker trash pull before Malacrass, roughly 1 million damage in about 30 seconds of segment time. With only two mobs, cleave and WW are useful but not definitive, so what you're looking at is roughly 250,000 damage worth of Raging Blows. 25% my damage was Raging Blow. That's a level of burst that I wasn't expecting considering how much mastery I lost in 4.1, and it has me rethinking my baseline assumptions. 12% mastery is more than enough to give you some significant power as long as your crit is at least 17%. Not hard to do in raid gear, even non-heroic raid gear. Heck, you can do that in ZG/ZA gear with a Fury of Angerforge, easily obtainable in the AH if you feel spendy.

I recognize this is an extremely anomalous situation, btw. It's just about the idea lineup of Raging Blow and big targets who don't die too fast.
The unusual suspects

I suspect the culprits here are Raging Blow, Slam, and Whirlwind. Specifically, Raging Blow skews better for TG, especially with higher mastery, while Slam skews better for SMF because a Bloodsurge Slam with SMF hits with both weapons while it only hits with the main hand for TG. WW, meanwhile, hits for 65% damage with both weapons, which means it minimally favors TG.

The real issue is that Raging Blow, which already favors TG, hits even harder with higher mastery because Raging Blow can only be used when enraged and as such, it gains from Unshacked Fury. Since Slam doesn't gain anything from mastery, SMF tends to not reward mastery stacking as directly as does TG.

As a result, my original statement about hit and mastery holds true for Single-Minded Fury. Hit's far and away the best DPS stat for a SMF build, and mastery is about equal with crit for you fast-swinging, dual-Slamming types. But for Titan's Grip, until your hit drops to the point that you're missing two swings in a row a lot, mastery's a lot more attractive and is probably at least a solid rival to hit.

You basically have a kind of bell curve where stacking hit over mastery stops rewarding you with DPS because it cheats you of your Unshackled Fury damage bonus to Raging Blow. However, dropping hit and stacking mastery only benefits you if you're not rage starving yourself by missing a lot with those 3.6-speed, 2H weapons you're swinging around.

In the end, I have to admit that for Titan's Grip, at least, I have been undervaluing mastery. I'm going to keep running parses for a more detailed look (maybe next week, maybe in the future for a detailed post on DPS stats) and try to see if I've missed anything glaringly obvious. Anything's possible when you just can't get your peanut butter cookie fix.

At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.
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