The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Specializations in Mists of Pandaria

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|10.30.11

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Specializations in Mists of Pandaria
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.

We are about to live in interesting times, my friends. Last week's BlizzCon effectively promised us most, if not all, of the candy I wanted. With the full awareness that this is all subject to change, take a look at the mock-up for abilities (not talents, core abilities) that all fury warriors will get as they level from 1 to 90 in the revamped Mists of Pandaria scheme. With the announcement that Slam will be an arms-only ability, I personally suspect that Wild Strike is the replacement for Bloodsurge's Slam proc. More importantly, you'll note a few things.

One I really want to highlight at the start are the no-brainer talents that aren't talents anymore, like Flurry, Raging Blow, Bloodsurge and both Titan's Grip and Single-Minded Fury. You'll also note that you don't have to choose between TG and SMF. You get both at level 38. I used the fury abilities screenshot because that's the one I managed to get. If Blizzard did an arms or protection one, I didn't see it. But all three talent specializations are worth discussing, because we're heading into a future where your talent choices are no longer constrained by spec.

Certain abilities (like Heroic Strike, possibly also Thunder Clap, and almost certainly most Shouts) were stated to be granted to all warriors, while others will be specialization-only, the way Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst and Shield Slam are now. For example, although Plate Specialization is listed on the fury abilities page, I expect all warriors will get their own version of it, with arms and fury most likely retaining the strength one and protection getting the stamina one. We likewise know that all warriors will be able to charge in all stances and in combat, which means that we may well be losing Intercept. (It wasn't directly stated in the panel, but the Bull Rush talent only mentions Charge and Intervene, not Intercept.)

Estimating protection

Protection in the new MoP design is still somewhat hard to call. We as yet haven't seen the active mitigation model, and based on comments in the recent live Q&A, debuffs like Sunder Armor might be leaving the game entirely. We don't know yet what talents will be baseline core abilities for protection. I'd hope at the very least that Devastate, Revenge and Shield Block will be core abilities for protection in whatever form they take.

While it's difficult to speculate too much about what form protection will take until we have those two fairly crucial pieces of the puzzle, we can at least look at the warrior talents from the show and begin making some educated guesses. The real genius of the new talent system is it will allow you to customize your talents on the fly based on what you expect to be doing. If you're going to be off tanking weak adds, the revamped form of Second Wind that combines the current talents Second Wind and Blood Craze might be ideal, whereas if you know you're going to boss tank and will be wanting an extra cooldown, Enraged Regeneration might pull ahead. Will you want to charge more often, have total control over if you need another charge right away, or root things you charge? Do you want a ranged silence for ease of pulling casters or to charge into a pack and silence everything?

I envision tanks using the respec on the fly system very often depending on their role in their raid, what size raid they're in, and the needs of their particular raid or guild. If you're one of only two tanks in a 10-man guild, you're less likely to switch specialization outright but fairly likely to change your talents to perform a specific task. This has the potential to make warriors, possibly the tank class with the greatest flexibility in their current toolkit, even more versatile.

Arms and the Pandaren

What about arms? We know that Slam will be a core arms ability in MoP, at least as of the current statements this BlizzCon. I find myself wondering if Deep Wounds, Overpower and perhaps even Colossus Smash will be purely arms abilities. With Sunder Armor going away, increased bleed damage debuffs also likely gone, and Deep Wounds likely either gone or going arms-only, arms will be potentially a lot better off than most people seem to think it will be.

If (I strenuously insist on stressing that if) arms retains exclusive core abilities like Colossus Smash and Deep Wounds, then arms will have most if not all of the abilities that bypass or ignore armor as well as the best DOT warriors have. This will emphasize arms as the warrior Q&A from 2009 did, as a soldierly, disciplined specialization that makes use of precise strikes to weaken an enemy while finding the exact right way to lash out to bypass their armor.

Arms PVE will be able to really select talents that make it feel different than arms PVP. Heck, it may even be the case that no two arms PVPers will have exactly the same talent kit. While there will always be those that look for the exact talent build for whatever they're doing, this talent tier alone has me imagining countless hours of debate. I can imagine an arms warrior taking Shockwave for a variety of PVP or PVE reasons. Heavy add fights, for example, especially ones where a 20-second cooldown with a 4-second stun would help keep the damage on the tanks lower. Or imagine an arms warrior taking Avatar and sacrificing Bladestorm's AOE for an honest-to-Mogu DPS cooldown for boss fights (although arms will also be able to pick up Death Wish if they desire).

The combination of being the most likely holder of the Colossus Smash/Deep Wounds combination and the ability to customize talents like this should help keep arms competitive in PVP and PVE alike. At least, it seems that way to me.

A furious attack

Fury is the proposed specialization we know the most about. In addition to the abilities listed at the opening of this post, we know that Bloodsurge will need to change, with Slam being arms only. Intercept most likely is gone with it, no longer being necessary since not only can warriors charge in all stances in combat but there being an entire tier of charge modifying talents. This makes charge, like Battle and Commanding Shout, another rage-generating attack like we speculated on last week.

There are a lot of interesting choices for fury in this talent scheme. As rudimentary and preliminary as it is (remember, MoP won't be out for months at the very least), what the new focus on core abilities vs. interesting talent choices does for fury is makes it a series of decisions based on what you want to do instead of, say, what the best weapons you currently have access to are. Both Tom Chilton and the occupied Dr. Street made excellent points about talents you simply had to take as fury, like Flurry or Raging Blow. A fury warrior without either of those talents is simply a bad fury warrior at the moment.

But imagine the choice between Throwdown, Piercing Howl or Cripple. This one really had me thinking hard: I'd love to have Throwdown on a fury warrior, but losing PH? And meanwhile, Cripple makes hamstring entirely automatic. If I can get a Rend on a guy, the ticks will refresh hamstring constantly. I'd probably prefer Cripple for PVP, but man, I'd also prefer Throwdown for PVP and I can't get them both, and while PH is good for both PVP and PVE, it's a 6-second daze versus a 15-second snare or a 5-second stun. Having Throwdown would have made a lot of my Rag kills a lot, lot easier. Likewise, the choice between Bladestorm, Shockwave and Avatar has me really torn between Bladestorm (more AOE) and Avatar (a 1-minute DPS cooldown with snare immunity), especially since Avatar doesn't limit me to spinning and shouting.

These are actual choices here. I expect there will be improvement and iteration to come. The point really is that at long, long last, warriors will be defined by what they decide to be good at, rather than a string of decisions like "Do I take Flurry, or do I take Flurry?" That in of itself has me excited for the future.

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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